Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Scouting Perry Jones, Josh Smith, Terrence Jones

High-school basketball takes center stage on Wednesday, with the McDonald's All-American Game being televised on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, and then the documentary film The Street Stops Here - about legendary coach Bob Hurley, Sr., who may get a well-deserved call to the Hall of Fame on Monday - airing on PBS at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

With that in mind, I offer my scouting reports for the three McDonald's All-Americans whom I saw live in person this season - Perry Jones, Joshua Smith and Terrence Jones - all guys we may soon be watching in the League.

I'll also once again be covering the upcoming Nike Hoop Summit, which takes place on April 10 in Portland, where I got my first glimpse of John Wall last year, and which looks to have an outstanding roster of future NBA players lined up once again this year.

PERRY JONES, Duncanville, TX/Baylor (6-11, 225)
Class of 2010 rankings: Scout - 4, Rivals - 6, ESPN - 9

Perry Jones is a fascinating, somewhat enigmatic prospect who is currently listed as the no. 2 overall pick in the Draft Express 2011 Mock Draft - a player with both stunning gifts and significant question marks surrounding his game.

I was in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex during the holiday season, and made the trek down to suburban Duncanville to see Jones in action.

The clear comparison which jumped out at me was that Jones seemed like a 6-11 Tracy McGrady, not just in terms of pros and cons, but also physical resemblance in body type - Jones has great length and he can sky, and his shooting form is strikingly similar to T-Mac's.

The WOW play of the night when I was in Duncanville was a full-court fast break on which Jones went behind his back to elude one defender in the backcourt, dropped a wicked crossover to beat another, and then displayed great court vision in whipping a one-handed bounce pass to a teammate for an assist.

We remind you: Perry Jones is 6-11.

Another time that Jones led the break, he dropped a nice lefty bounce pass to a teammate, again showing the ability to both make the correct decision and to execute it.

Jones displayed a good shooting touch the night I was in town, hitting on pull-up jumpers on the perimeter and turnaround J's in the post. He also showed the ability to make dribble moves in the half-court O, and generally offered a good mix of inside/outside play.

Defensively, Duncanville utilized a clever zone in which Jones roamed in and out. Basically, Jones' four teammates played a box, and the zone morphed from a 1-2-2 to a 2-1-2 to a 2-3 based on where Jones went.

Jones was disruptive on the perimeter at times as a trapping defender, but was probably pulled away from the basket too often. He also flailed for blocks too often, leaving himself out of position to rebound. In general, Jones was not an active presence on the boards, which was a disappointment because he has the physical tools to clear the glass like a young KG.

That's the rub with Jones - when I compare him to McGrady, I mean for both good and ill. At times, Jones had a laconic demeanor and seemed to be disinterested at both ends of the floor. His activity level slipped as the game wore on, especially on D, as he wasn't even challenging shots.

Perhaps it was because the game I attended was a blowout, but a recurring lack of assertiveness seems to be a consistent criticism of Perry Jones' game. described his season like so:
    Consistency has always been tough to bottle for Jones and his senior season was no exception. He has the ability to look like a future No. 1 NBA Draft pick one night (27 points, 17 rebounds against Irving MacArthur on Jan. 2) and completely disappear and be a non-factor the next (three points against Dallas Carter Dec. 28). Jones averaged 13.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, leading the Panthers to a 21-13 record. He was held to single digits in the scoring column 10 times, which is hard to believe given his talent but also has something to do with a cold-shooting Duncanville squad that gave opponents the opportunity to collapse on the big man.
Unfortunately, I missed the nationally televised matchup of Jones against LeBryan Nash, a top prospect in the class of 2011 who is also from Dallas. By all accounts, the powerful 6-7, 210 Nash handily won the matchup, with a 26-8 performance in a 67-55 win as Jones scored just 12 points.

In some ways, Perry Jones' situation reminds me of that of Marvin Williams when he entered the draft, in that Jones could use more seasoning as an alpha dog with the responsibility of carrying a team.

When I saw Williams in high school in the Seattle area, he played for a small-town team which was pathetically coached and finished about .500 - Williams never felt the pressure of carrying a team to the state playoffs in high school, and then spent just one year at North Carolina as a sixth man for a national champion. I've always felt Williams would have been better served to spend an extra year at Carolina as the go-to guy, especially because he didn't get that opportunity in high school, either.

Of course, Williams did get that opportunity in summer-league ball, where he made his name by starring for a Seattle team which advanced deep into a major tournament. And that's exactly how Jones made his rise - last summer on the AAU circuit. Duncanville has been a national power in basketball in recent years, and Jones played merely a supporting role right up through his junior year.

I almost always believe that players should enter the draft if they are projected as high first-round picks, but Jones is a rare case, like Williams, where I wonder if he might be well-served with an extra year of seasoning in carrying the responsibility as The Man. We'll see what happens.

In any event, Perry Jones should fit in beautifully with the athletic style of play employed by Scott Drew at Baylor. In our mind, he's also the most interesting player to watch at the McDonald's game. He possibly has more potential and physical ability than any player in the class of 2010, but he is still quite far from fully realizing that potential. I wouldn't be surprised to see Jones eventually go no. 2 in the draft, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him slip deeper into the lottery. That, as they say, is why they play the games.

JOSHUA SMITH, Covington, WA/UCLA (6-10, 280)
Class of 2010 rankings: Scout - 13, Rivals - 19, ESPN - 11

After watching massive center Joshua Smith several times, the players to whom I'd compare him - and I swear I'm not trying to be funny here - are Oliver Miller at his best and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar circa 1987. Don't get me wrong, these comparisons are meant in part to speak to the weaknesses in Smith's game. But both of those players were good: Miller at his best was a valuable 18 PER player for the 56-win '93-94 Suns, and Kareem also had an 18 PER as a 39-year-old starter for the champion Lakers.

But an 18 PER is sub-All-Star-level, and it speaks to the relative disappointment in Smith's development - he's fallen from a Top 5 perch in previous class-of-2010 rankings as he's continued to struggle with his weight.

As with Jones, though, Smith is an enigma more than anything - he has lots of pros balancing his cons, and his career could go in many different directions. It wouldn't surprise me if he became a star, and it wouldn't surprise me if he ultimately ate his way out of the league.

Smith has had an unorthodox senior year. First, he decided to put on the football pads and become a massive lineman for a season. Then, he suffered a partially torn patella tendon in December which kept him out of action for several weeks.

Really, again, because of all the weight he's carrying, Smith reminded me of Oliver Miller at his best: great hands and a soft shooting touch, an unselfish and gifted passer from the high or low post, surprisingly light on his feet for such a large frame, with outstanding footwork.

On the other hand, Smith is not active on D (though he has good timing as a shot-blocker) or the boards - he didn't rebound outside his area in games I saw. And then, he just appears to be flat out of shape. Smith runs the court sporadically. That's where the Kareem '87 comparisons come into play. Lots of times, I saw Smith clear the defensive board, throw an outlet, and then slowly trail the break while his teammates waited for him to methodically set up on the low block, where he was routinely devastating and unguardable on the high-school level.

How bad does he want to get into, and stay in, shape? That's the question with Joshua Smith. Does he want Oliver Miller's career, or does he want something more? It's up to him. He has a rare combination of size and skill.

As a postscript, Smith's Kentwood H.S. team struggled during his injury absence and entered the state tournament with just a 16-10 record. But then, the big fella absolutely put Kentwood on his back and impressively carried them to a state championship. He averaged 23 points and 15 rebounds a game at state, and also led the tournament with 17 total assists (in four games).

Also, from my observations, Smith seems to be a bright, articulate kid who is well-liked by his teammates. I love this Seattle Times photo from the aftermath of the state championship, with the big mountain of a young man surrounded by his jubilant teammates:

TERRENCE JONES, Portland, OR/Undecided (6-9, 230)
Class of 2010 rankings: Scout - 20, Rivals - 13, ESPN - 13

Terrence Jones is a somewhat unorthodox but undeniably effective player, as he led his Jefferson H.S. team to three consecutive Oregon state championships, the first time that's ever been done at the 5A or 6A levels in the state.

When I saw Jones, he didn't appear to play with a tremendous amount of effort, yet at the end of the game, he had 22 points, 9 rebounds, 8 blocks, and Jefferson had handed nationally-ranked Federal Way (WA) its first loss of the season.

My notes included phrases like "low motor", "doesn't go after boards hard", "low effort", "doesn't work hard on D", and "didn't seem to play hard, but still big win." Still, somehow, I like Jones as a player.

Most notably, Jones uses his exceptional length to his advantage. While he didn't seem to work hard on D, he claimed 8 blocks because he was able get after shots even while playing several feet off his man. He was also imposing with his wings spread out on the press.

On offense, Jones has the versatility to play on the perimeter as something of a point forward. He has a nice lefty shooting stroke, and very good court vision/unselfishness, though he made several bad decisions - "a lot of A, a lot of TO" is what I had in my notes, though I didn't see any numbers on those categories.

While Jones had the ability to get to the basket on the drive, he did not strike me as an exceptional finisher. It may seem strange, but it seems like Jones is more crafty with his length than he is an explosive athlete.

It's hard to describe. Take a look at this clip - it's a beautiful move and an impressive dunk, somewhat of a 360, but it seems like it's all arms rather than an explosion. Might be nit-picking for a guy with three straight high-school state titles, but that extra oomph off the floor can be what separates the men from the boys in the League:

Jones is undecided and is said to be considering Kentucky, Washington, Oregon, UCLA and Oklahoma.

We look forward to getting another look at these three players, as well as the rest of the best of the class of 2010, in the McDonald's All-American Game and the Nike Hoop Summit. Thanks for reading.


At 6:03 AM, Anonymous tachenko said...

If that is 360 degrees then I have done several in my life. That's not even 90.
Even if you start counting when he has not started to jump (which you shouldn´t), it is around 270.

At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Arjun Chandrasekhar said...

agreed. more like 90 if you only count from where he started to jump.

thanks for the scouting reports guys. personally the only mcdonalds game i've ever watched was the lebron game, in general i try not to judge these 18-year old kids until at least seeing them in college. but your reports do seem to be more realistic and accurate than those of other sources.

interesting, the top three guys are super-talented but super inconsistent and don't always go all out. it'll be really interesting to watch them next year.

by the way everyone when you're done here make sure to check out for candid and insightful analysis

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