Perry Jones III Will Blend In, Fit with Thunder Program

Thanks to continuity and teamwork over the past four seasons, the Thunder and its intact, young core has built itself up and came within three wins of an NBA Championship this year.

During the 2012 NBA Draft on Thursday, General Manager Sam Presti, Assistant General Manager Troy Weaver and the basketball operations staff were looking for a player who would mesh well with not only the Thunder culture, but on the floor with the group already assembled. In selecting Perry Jones III from Baylor University, the Thunder feels it got a diligent, athletic player who can find his niche on an already successful squad.

“We really see him as a player that can blend,” Presti said. “We see great value in the fact that he’s incredibly talented, but he’s able to play within a team and understand how he can impact a game. He doesn’t need to be forcing the issue at all times. With our particular team, we feel like that is a huge quality that we looked at as a positive for us. The ability to play within the framework of a game and be able to impact it in several different ways.”

“To us, the ability to show some restraint and not force the issue, that’s a major plus,” Presti continued. “We look at that as a guy that is about winning first and foremost and has impacted winning. For us, we think it’s a good fit with what we have going on here.”

As a 6-foot-11, 235-pound wing and post player, Jones has been on the Thunder’s radar for the past two years, ever since Presti had the chance to watch his first practice in Waco, Texas. Weaver explained that the team won’t slot Jones into a particular position or role or put much pressure on him, but rather allow him to grow and find himself within the team concept.

“He plays within the team and tries to blend with players and help his team win ball games,” Weaver said. “Some games he has 14 points, some games it’s 20, some games its eight. He just tries to blend in with the team and help the team win. … He has a tremendous work ethic. He brings his hard hat every day. He’s just a guy that tries to fit in and help the team win.”

“We won’t pigeon-hole him,” Weaver continued. “I think he can play anywhere on the front line. He’s a versatile player, but the coaches will handle that. What we see is his versatility is his strength.”

Weaver described that during his time at Baylor, Jones played all along the frontline of the defense, while utilizing a varied offensive game that extended to the perimeter. With a semblance of consistency in shooting the college 3-pointer, Jones utilizes a balanced scoring attack that he can bring to the Thunder. Most of all, Presti and Weaver said, the team simply wants Jones to get into the Thunder program, get acclimated and work with the coaching staff on a development plan.

“Just come be a good teammate, come work hard and let the chips fall,” Weaver said. “He’s a humble kid and we just want him to come in and blend with our group and continue to build upon the different guys that we have here. No expectations other than to come be himself and that’s being a humble kid that really works.”

Other versatile frontcourt players like Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison have all found their particular role on this Thunder team, and Presti hopes that with those veterans’ guidance, Jones can find his own path as well. Keeping the expectations or specific role-based projections at a minimum is a goal for the Thunder staff until they get a chance to see how he meshes with what the team already has put together.

“The most important thing is letting him get acclimated to what we do,” Presti said. “Having players like Serge, Nick and Kevin and company, those guys are going to help his transition and they should. Our core guys, the guys that have been here a few years have set the standards internally that we work by on a day to day basis. Perry is going to be held to those.”

In terms of his personality, Presti is confident that Jones will slide right into the Thunder locker room and fit right in. When looking back at that first practice at Baylor, the Thunder GM recalls that even as a freshman, Jones was out on the court early before anybody else. During the research the Thunder did throughout the year, Presti asked Baylor Head Coach Scott Drew to articulate three of Jones' biggest qualities, and he responded that he is a great teammate, caring and humble.

“Those are traits we feel are really important to our program here,” Presti said. “Additionally we just feel like he blends with us as an organization on and off the floor and we’re really excited to welcome him to the Thunder family.”

“When you look at our team and some of the traits of our team, he kind of fits into that if you look at the group that we have,” Presti concluded.