Herbert Jones shoots a free throw at Utah

Pelicans shootaround update: Herbert Jones making major strides at foul line, three-point arc

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

Prior to the 2021 NBA Draft, a scouting report posted on NBA.com noted that Herbert Jones “has significant room to grow as a jump shooter,” a common pre-draft refrain about the University of Alabama product. After all, Jones finished his four-year college career at just 29 percent from three-point range and 60 percent on free throws.

At the midway point of his rookie season with New Orleans, no one – perhaps not even Jones himself – could have predicted the strides he’s already made shooting-wise. The 23-year-old enters Thursday’s home game vs. the Clippers at 37 percent on threes and 82 percent at the foul line, staggering improvements from his recent days in the SEC.

After another lengthy post-shootaround session of working on his jumper with Pelicans assistant coach Fred Vinson, Jones credited Vinson for those leaps in accuracy.

“He tells me all the time and reminds me to keep putting in the work and the results will show,” Jones said of Vinson. “That’s the biggest takeaway from working with him. He knows you have to trust the process to get where you want to get. With shooting, it’s going to take some time. It’s not going to happen overnight, and I’m OK with that.”

While the player and coach are focusing on long-term development, Jones has already vastly exceeded expectations overall and in the in-season progress he’s made. He is 15/17 at the foul line in January (88 percent).

“(Vinson) tweaked my technique just a little bit at the free throw line, keeping everything straight,” Jones said. “That has helped me tremendously.”

Jones has also drained multiple three-pointers in five of the team’s last eight games. Prior to that, he made two-plus treys in three of his first 30 appearances

Other notes from shootaround:

According to NBA.com’s John Schuhmann, entering this week the Pelicans’ most common starting lineup ranked sixth in net rating among 14 lineups that had logged at least 200 minutes together, outscoring opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions.

Jones on the team’s starting lineup: “It’s super fun to play with those guys. “ …

Reserve guard Jose Alvarado collided hard with Minnesota’s Jaylen Nowell during Tuesday’s game while tracking down a loose ball, but Alvarado was able to return to the floor (Nowell exited with an ankle injury). Alvarado sustained a cut on his forehead that’s still being covered by a bandage two days later, but did not sustain even a headache from the play.

“It wasn’t as serious as it looked,” Alvarado said of the incident. “It was a hard fall, but I’m glad I’m OK.”

LA CLIPPERS SCOUTING REPORT

Offensive efficiency rank: 27 (105.7)

Defensive efficiency rank: 4 (106.2)

Net rating: 18 (-0.6)

Pace: 15 (98.85)

Streak: Won 2

Go-to guy: With Paul George (elbow) sidelined recently and Kawhi Leonard (knee) having not played in 2021-22, offensive production tends to be a group effort for the Clippers, but veteran forward Marcus Morris Sr. has emerged as the top weapon in January, averaging a team-best 18.8 points. Among players who’ve appeared in all six LA games this month, four others are also putting up double-digit scoring, including Reggie Jackson (13.8), Amir Coffey (12.8), Terance Mann (11.0) and ex-Pelicans guard Eric Bledsoe (10.2).

On the rise: The subject of frequent coffee-related puns on Clippers TV broadcasts generated by play-by-play guy Brian Sieman, third-year pro Coffey has only made nine total NBA starts, but four of those have occurred in January. Coffey is coming off two of the best games of his pro career, sparking the Clippers to wins over Atlanta and Denver by tallying 21 and 18 points, respectively. He shot a combined 8/15 on threes in those victories.

PREVIOUS GAME STARTING LINEUPS

LA CLIPPERS (21-21)

Tuesday win vs. Denver

Reggie Jackson, Amir Coffey, Nicolas Batum, Marcus Morris Sr., Ivica Zubac

Notes: This group is 2-1, together for each of the last three games, all at home, including a loss to Memphis and wins over Atlanta and Denver. … Thursday is the start of a brief two-game road trip against the Southwest Division for the Clippers, who are at San Antonio on Saturday. Ten of the next 11 LA games are on the road, with an eight-game excursion beckoning from Jan. 19-31. Seven of those eight roadies are against the East. … LA is seventh in the West, tied with the 21-21 Lakers.

NEW ORLEANS (15-26)

Sunday loss at Toronto

Devonte’ Graham, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas

Notes: This group is 9-5, with the Pelicans going 6-21 in all other games. This lineup is 6-3 at home, 3-2 on the road. … Like the Clippers, the Pelicans are about to enter a road-heavy stretch. Following Thursday’s home contest, eight of the next 11 New Orleans games will be outside of Louisiana, including separate three- and four-game trips between Jan. 15 and Feb. 6. … New Orleans is No. 13 in the West, but only 1.5 games behind 10th-place Portland (16-24), which visits Denver late Thursday on TNT.

FANDUEL KEYS TO THE GAME

HIT THE BOARDS

These teams are polar opposites when it comes to rebounding, which was on display in both November head-to-head meetings. New Orleans ranks third in the NBA in total rebounding percentage (52.0), while the Clippers are third-worst (48.2). Not surprisingly – at least based on those season-long rankings – the Pelicans outboarded the Clippers 55-43 in the Crescent City on Nov. 19, then won the category 47-35 on Nov. 29 in California.

STAY HOT

Ingram’s game-winning bucket Tuesday vs. Minnesota gave New Orleans a season high in points (128), while tying the club’s most three-pointers in a game (16). All three instances in which the Pelicans have knocked down exactly 16 treys have occurred since a Dec. 28 comeback win over Cleveland. New Orleans’ shooting percentage of 55.3 from the field against Minnesota was also its best rate of 2021-22.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

At point guard, neither Graham nor Jackson have made a significant impact in the previous two head-to-head matchups between the Pelicans and Clippers, but Graham was sidelined by injury Nov. 19 (he scored eight points on 3/8 shooting during NOLA’s victory at the arena formerly known as Staples Center). Jackson is averaging 11.5 points vs. the Pelicans this season, shooting 36 percent from the field and 33 percent on threes. If either prolific marksman breaks out Thursday, it could give his team a big boost.

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