Five things to know about Pelicans forward Herbert Jones
1) His addition marks the second straight year that New Orleans has selected a University of Alabama product in the NBA draft, after the Pelicans chose point guard Kira Lewis Jr. at No. 13 overall in 2020. Like Lewis, Jones is also a native of the state of Alabama. Jones was born in Northport, then attended high schools in Newbern and Moundville. His birthplace of Northport (population 25,874) is about a four-hour drive to the Crescent City. Lewis’ birthplace of Meridianville is located close to the Tennessee border and two hours north of Northport.
2) Jones was projected by most mock drafts to be picked in the 30s or 40s Thursday, with Sam Vecenie of The Athletic tabbing him at 34, which turned out to be one spot ahead of where New Orleans took him at 35. Prior to the draft, CBSSports.com writer Gary Parrish said of Jones, “A top-3 wing defender in this draft. Herbert Jones has everything you want but the shot is shaky. There’s optimism it’s improving, though, and after making 35.1 percent from deep last season and winning SEC Player of the Year, he’s got the tools I’d like to add next to Cade Cunningham (as a Detroit second-round pick).”
3) Jones will continue to spend time refining his perimeter shot, but he found ways to contribute in numerous areas beyond scoring while at Alabama. Jones was both the SEC’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in 2020-21, averaging 11.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks. He was Alabama’s fourth-leading scorer, while leading the Crimson Tide in rebounding, assists, steals and blocks.
4) The left-hander broke his left wrist during his junior season, but opted to play through the injury with a cast. He continued to log significant minutes, by relying on his weaker right hand. During one vital trip to the foul line in a close game against LSU, Jones was forced to shoot a pair of free throws one-handed, but managed to sink both of them, giving Alabama a four-point lead with less than two minutes remaining. The home crowd in Tuscaloosa erupted in cheers, with Jones later telling SI.com, “It was crazy. It’s the loudest I think I’ve ever heard it get on a free throw.”
5) One draft scouting video on Jones describes him as a “Swiss Army knife” on the defensive end, noting that he can guard positions “1 through 4 with little problem.” At 6-foot-8, 210 pounds, he has excellent length and the ability to slide his feet, putting him in position to regularly contest shots. Several of his blocks in college came against jump shooters, including rejecting players at the three-point arc, a relatively rare defensive feat. He had a total of 37 blocks in 33 games, one factor behind Alabama going 26-7 and winning the SEC regular season and conference titles. The Tide reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, losing in overtime to eventual Final Four qualifier UCLA.