(Erica Rodriguez/Los Angeles Lakers)
Latest Laker: Jemerrio Jones
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 175 pounds, Jemerrio Jones may be the most unlikely elite rebounder in recent memory.
But one year after ranking second in the entire NCAA in rebounds, the New Mexico State product has converted an impactful rookie G League season into a 10-day contract with the Los Angeles Lakers.
OFFICIAL: Lakers sign Jemerrio Jones https://t.co/OubyerypNZ— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 31, 2019
Jones — who has gained between 30-40 pounds since that initial measurement — continued his intense glass-crashing in this year with the South Bay Lakers, ranking sixth in the G League in rebounds (9.6) and seventh in offensive boards (3.4).
While he may be undersized compared to other top rebounders, he is armed with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, understanding of positioning and relentless energy.
The 23-year-old primarily played small forward this season, but showed plenty of positional flexibility. Jones played all five spots for South Bay, and has the unique skills necessary to run point.
In fact, when Alex Caruso was either injured or with the L.A. Lakers, South Bay would often have Jones serve as backup point guard.
He averaged 3.5 assists as a rookie — a solid number that still didn’t properly reflect his abilities. He’s capable of running the offense both in transition and half-court, and gets the ball to his guys in a variety of ways.
He’ll serve up lobs on fast-breaks, or penetrate the defense with his go-to crossover. Jones has great understanding of where help defense comes from, which serves him well when locating rollers, shooters and cutters, including out of pick-and-rolls.
As for his own scoring, Jones is a bit of a scavenger. He averaged 9.4 points for South Bay, mainly by opportunistically chasing put-backs, cuts to the hoop and transition opportunities.
His shooting is perhaps the most wanting part of his game, as he hit a near-average 34.1 percent on 3-pointers and a ghastly 50.0 percent on free throws.
But he also showed to be a good finisher, hitting 61.4 percent of his layups. He has the requisite ball handling to beat most G League-level defenders and the athleticism to finish at the hoop.
On the other side of the floor, Jones’ long arms and ceaseless motor give him plenty of defensive potential.
The same mental floor-mapping that makes him such an impressive passer also helps him know when to rotate over and shock opposing scorers.
As with any G League player, the biggest question will be whether Jones can handle NBA-caliber speed and size. But it’s not like he hasn’t already shattered expectations to get to this point.
The Memphis native tore his ACL as a junior in high school, did not play as a senior and ended up dropping out. Four years later (and after a two-season stint in community college), he was named WAC Player of the Year, honorable mention All-American and recipient of a bachelor’s degree from NMSU.
For Jemerrio Jones, the NBA is just another mountain waiting to be climbed.
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