A closer look at Terrence Jones

Terrence Jones is an athletic mutant. That’s the most complimentary description that springs to mind whenever he’s racing around a basketball court on my television. Jones makes the difficult look effortless, but turns simple situations into a sticky Rubix cube. Two weeks ago he wasn’t in Houston’s rotation. Two nights ago he scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds in the first quarter of a go-away thrashing against the Boston Celtics.

What we don’t know about Jones is precisely why he’s so exciting. Only 21 years old, his play in sparse minutes this season has been instinctive, energetic, and—dare I recall Bradley Cooper’s sleeper hit from 2011—limitless.

As a shot-blocker he looks like a mini-Dwight Howard, and his full on desire to take the ball coast to coast after ripping a board off the glass rekindles thoughts of a young Josh Smith. When Houston played Denver earlier this week, Jones was matched up with Kenneth Faried, a bouncy ball of exuberance. “Can Jones be Houston’s Kenneth Faried, or would that limit his potential?” was something I jotted in my notebook after watching him snag a rebound over three Denver forwards.

All these comparisons are obviously speculation (or hearsay, to some), but now that Kevin McHale has unofficially given up on an Omer Asik-Howard pairing—and until we discover the returns on whatever golden goose Morey lands for Asik—Jones is Houston’s starting power forward in the here and now. Here are three questions that should help us get to know him a little better.

 

How’s his overall defense?

Let’s start by listing a few opponents Jones has already spent significant time defending: Rudy Gay, Carmelo Anthony, Thaddeus Young, and Dirk Nowitzki. The good news? Jones isn’t dead. In fact, he looked under control for moments against all those guys, staying tight and preventing blow bys of the most embarrassing variety.

As a help defender Jones has the potential to be destructive. He doesn’t “roam” around the paint so much as he ricochets from point to point; his size (6’9” with a 7’2” wingspan) and quickness creates the type of plays at the rim Serge Ibaka makes on a regular basis.

Of course, a couple weeks into the rotation, Jones is definitely not Ibaka. He struggles defending the pick-and-roll and is a bit too eager out on the perimeter. At this point, basic help on the back line is more instinctual than routine, but that’s to be expected for someone who still has a ton to learn.

Circled above is Jones, about to defend a pick-and-roll with Faried as the screener.

The ball is passed to the top of the key in a nifty design sending Faried back door, and Jones falls for it, hook, line, and sinker. His head and body are still worried about the ball, when they should be worried about his man, who’s begun a dead sprint towards open space around the basket.

And there you have it. Faried scores on a bunny. This is a case of Jones relying too much on his quickness, when what he should’ve done once he saw the ball-handler go towards the middle is sag towards the elbow. Instead he came up even higher to meet Faried, who isn’t a shooting threat unless the shot comes at the rim.

In the clip below, Jones and Patrick Beverley are defending a pick-and-roll against Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass. Jones sags to the free-throw line and plays the sequence perfectly…until he doesn’t. For an unknown reason, in the middle of the play, Jones decides to shift back onto his man, the rolling Bass.

Chandler Parsons has correctly slid over to pick Bass up, and it’s Jones’ responsibility to keep Bradley from getting to the basket. Instead, an open floater is lofted. Thankfully Howard was there, ready and waiting to swallow the ball.

I’m not sure why he decides to rotate off the ball. Maybe he thought Beverley was in position to recover? Or James Harden’s decision to crash down would have an effect on Bradley’s drive? Maybe the explanation is as simple as he was duped by a decent hesitation dribble?

Regardless, Jones can’t play starter’s minutes (he’s averaging 32.4 over his Houston’s last five games, more than Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley) and make mistakes like that one. He’s super fast for his size, but all that’s useless if he doesn’t know how to read the offense. Jones is getting better, though, and there’s no reason to think plays like the two shown above will become a thing of the past sooner than later.

What’s his offensive role?

When Terrence Jones plays, Houston’s offense hums. He’s spent 210 minutes on the court so far this season, and in that time the Rockets have averaged a totally insane 117.3 points per 100 possessions. Also: the Patrick Beverley-James Harden-Chandler Parsons-Jones-Howard starting lineup has played 70 minutes together, and is outscoring opponents by 22.0 points per 100 possessions.

These are, of course, small sample sizes. But they’re still pretty freaking wonderful. Since replacing Asik in the starting lineup, Jones has been a delight, hitting open space with timely off ball cuts, attacking the paint with aerial assaults on the offensive glass, and making the most of opportunities from the outside when opponents leave him alone to guard Howard, Harden, Parsons, or Jeremy Lin.

Last night against the Mavericks he had 18 points on 61.5% shooting from the floor. He finished with 24 and 9 against Boston, and 14 and 12 against the Nuggets. Over his last five games he’s averaging 14.4 points and 8.4 rebounds on 56.6% shooting. He’s at 50% on three-pointers (that will obviously drop) and is attempting as many shots from the floor as Howard (who gets waaaaaaay more touches that result in trips to the free-throw line, but still).

Where Jones has been most impressive is off the dribble. Here are two plays against Denver where he gets to the basket on his own, with no assistance. Scary stuff for a defense that already has a few dozen other things to worry about.

I don’t even know what’s going on here, or how Jones slithers from the three-point line to the rim. A sequence like this will probably never happen again in his career, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome.

A bit more conventional, here’s Jones making a smart offensive play. He pump fakes, blows past his man on a drive to the rim, and draws a foul. There were 17 seconds on the shot clock when Jones caught the pass, but he still looked to attack. This aggression is a very, very good sign.

If he’s Houston’s starting power forward in May, will that be good or bad?

This is the big question, and one that’ll ultimately be determined by the pending Omer Asik trade. My personal opinion is that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. It’d mean Jones is playing way above his head, because Morey wants to win now, and any deal involving Asik is most likely to bring back immediate help along with a long-term investment.

If Jones is still starting, there’s a good chance Morey had the flexibility to strike a deal solely focused on future returns (draft picks, undeveloped players on rookie contracts—think Thomas Robinson, but hopefully better—etc.). But if that’s the case, would it be enough for Houston to win the title? Again, super tough to speculate, but all that’s a million miles down the road and utterly useless in the present. What the Rockets have today is more than what they thought they had two weeks ago. That means more flexibility, both on the trade market (don’t be SHOCKED if Jones is dealt while he’s playing so well) and the basketball court.

 

Michael Pina is a writer, with bylines at Red94, CelticsHub, The Classical, Bleacher Report, Sports On Earth, and Boston Magazine. Follow him here.

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Total comments: 41
  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    http://nba.si.com/2013/11/27/houston-rockets-defensive-rebounding-dwight-howard/

    This article correctly points out one of the bigger issue with Jones so far. and if your wondering why Love scored so much despite looking like Jones contained him well, this article have the answer and youtube clip to prove it.

    (hint, he had 6 offensive rebound which directly lead to 5 buckets, a total of 8 points and a assist for Love. and another one that kept the play alive and the wolves eventually scored.)

    I don't think anyone is implying T-Jones is a finish product. this kid still has a lot of learning to do. I agree he needs to box out better, but I wasn't expecting him to not have flaws that needed correcting. he should still play while the coaching staff works with him to address those flaws because the possible benefit outweighs the drawbacks IMO

  • RollingWave says 8 months ago

    Though I should add that this is

    A. a reasonably fixable / teachable issue

    B. not really just on Jones, the whole team has problem with this so far.

  • RollingWave says 8 months ago

    http://nba.si.com/2013/11/27/houston-rockets-defensive-rebounding-dwight-howard/

    This article correctly points out one of the bigger issue with Jones so far. and if your wondering why Love scored so much despite looking like Jones contained him well, this article have the answer and youtube clip to prove it.

    (hint, he had 6 offensive rebound which directly lead to 5 buckets, a total of 8 points and a assist for Love. and another one that kept the play alive and the wolves eventually scored.)

  • Rahat Huq says 8 months ago

    Clyde Drexler's theary on T.Jones' breakout is that it coincided with that design in his forehead and that getting that design (?) gave him newfound confidence.

    :o

  • Richards says 8 months ago

    TJ's rebounding and cutting his way into basket didn't surprised me.

    His jump shooting and 3pter were pleasant surprise. The search for PF would be over if he shoot reasonably well in future games.

  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    this kid is still young. there will be some bumpy patches along the way. however I think T-Jones deserves the right to see if he can fill this PF roll this year. some want us to bring a more experience vet for the position but not me. I want us to let this kid play. he will earn his keep if given time.

  • RudyT1995 says 8 months ago

    Jones averages for the last 7 games.

    32.4 m/g, 13.9 pt/g, 8.9 reb/g, 2.0 blk/g, 1.6 ast/g

    5.7-10.0 fg/g, 57%

    1.0-1.9 3pt/g, 54%

    1.4-2.1 ft/g, 67%

    Not too shabby.

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    I was surprised when I saw Love's numbers, I thought Jones did a much better job than the numbers indicated.

  • Buckko says 8 months ago

    Baptized by fire, I know Love will score, rebound, and dominate, but I'm more curious how Jones will do against the bruiser of Randolph on Monday.

  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    T-Jones will have his hands full tonight with K-Love. Is he up to the task.......only time will tell. K-Love routinely cooks the opposing PF's he faces. if nothing else it should be a valuable learning experience

  • Buckko says 8 months ago

    That was a good trade, both teams prospered from that trade. Even though Kwaih is the better player, he would never had flourished behind PG and Granger.

  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    they traded developing players. it wasn't a "win now" trade.

    I disagree. it was a win now trade for the Pacers. Hill was a more establish player while the Spurs only got a prospect. Indiana had been searching for a PG and instead of drafting one they traded for one

  • miketheodio says 8 months ago

    Pacers and Spurs TRADED with each other, Hill for Kwahi ring any bells?

    they traded developing players. it wasn't a "win now" trade.

  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    So am I the only one who sees some Robert Horry in TJones? The guyskeeps surprising athleticly even though we know he is a physical stud, he has an outside shot (definitely needs some more polishing but its there), and he finds ways to contribute to wins. He is a Nash hip check away from wearing Horry jerseys on throw back night.

    no I don't see Horry in him. while they were both athletically freakish Horry was more shooter than driver and T-Jones is more driver than shooter. T-Jones has a chance to be a better player than Horry was. Horry was great at his roll, but a role player is what he was. T-Jones can be more than just a roll player..............to early in his development to tell if he will reach full potential, but his ceiling is beyond Horry

  • Hemingway says 8 months ago

    I love Terrence Jones because he has great instincts, like when that pass Lin flicked pinpoint through some enemy's arms on the fast break was caught so fast and deftly, and finished.

  • thejohnnygold says 8 months ago

    Yes, they traded talent they had developed themselves at positions that were stacked for them. What was SA going to do with another starting PG? What was Indiana going to do with another starting SF? I think the point still stands.

    In time, we will be trading a PF that we have developed because, much like Highlander, there can be only one.

  • Losthief says 8 months ago

    i would like to develop talent and be competitive. pacers and spurs have done this. you dont NEED a trade to win all the time.

    Pacers and Spurs TRADED with each other, Hill for Kwahi ring any bells?

  • Buckko says 8 months ago Dont under estimate the value of a 7ft rebounding machine defense monster who doesn't get hurt and is always consistant.
  • Chichos says 8 months ago

    So am I the only one who sees some Robert Horry in TJones? The guyskeeps surprising athleticly even though we know he is a physical stud, he has an outside shot (definitely needs some more polishing but its there), and he finds ways to contribute to wins. He is a Nash hip check away from wearing Horry jerseys on throw back night.

  • Rahat Huq says 8 months ago

    I had T. Jones as most important Rocket in all of my offseason analysis. Then he looked lost in preseason and I went into depression. Now he's the starter. Go figure.

  • Cooper says 8 months ago Cauley stein or Joel embiid are probably going to be around 10-14 you don't trade those guys (especially embiid) for asik unless you think you're a title contender right away next year.
  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    I think a lottery pick is unrealistic in this years draft.

    I don't. a high lottery pick is unlikely, but something around 10-14 is possible. think of it this way. will there be a center of Asik's caliber available? after the first few picks teams will start to focus on needs in addition to overall talent. while this draft will be one for the ages. you have to ask yourself are there 14 college players who are better than Asik? considering how hard it is to find a good 7 footer and Asik being a proven commodity, I could see a team giving up a low lottery pick to acquire him. as jumbled up as the eastern conference is, it's likely that more than one team who believes they will make the playoffs will end up in the lottery. Asik would be a franchise center for many of these teams. think Cleveland or Washington for example. in Cleveland after drafting high every since LBJ left, but still only having Kyrie to show for it. would they be willing to forgo the gamble and go with a proven player like Asik to fill a position of need for them? I think they would. Bynum is unlikely to work out, Varejao is non-guaranteed for next year and isn't looking like the same player of years passed. in Washington Gortat is a FA at the end of the year. what are they going to do for a center if they are unable to resign him? these are just two examples there are others. while I don't think the Rockets will go the draft pick route the possibilities are still there to get a good one.

  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago I think a lottery pick is unrealistic in this years draft.
  • Rahat Huq says 8 months ago

    Looking like the best value for Asik might be a 3-way that lands us a lottery pick.

  • miketheodio says 8 months ago

    I don't think we really have a choice when it comes to Asik realistically. sure we got his contract, but do you really want a malcontent in the locker room all year? as for our other young players.............I agree I want to develop what we have. especially T-Jones, D-Mo and Canaan.

    i should clarify. when i say "trade" i mean a trade to "win now". it would be great to get a 1st round lottery pick and use it for a trade next year.

  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    i would like to develop talent and be competitive. pacers and spurs have done this. you dont NEED a trade to win all the time.

    I don't think we really have a choice when it comes to Asik realistically. sure we got his contract, but do you really want a malcontent in the locker room all year? as for our other young players.............I agree I want to develop what we have. especially T-Jones, D-Mo and Canaan.

  • miketheodio says 8 months ago

    i would like to develop talent and be competitive. pacers and spurs have done this. you dont NEED a trade to win all the time.

  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    I think Asik wins a team 10 wins by himself if utilized correctly. So why would a tanking team want him? Philly has Noel, so they're out. New Orleans has Davis, so theyre out. The Celtics might happen but is rondo worth that much? The Blazers and Wolves are impressing and are trying to contend, not give away star players. We might be able to get Ilyasova if Henson starts to come into his own and a third team wants Asik. I'm sure the Nets would trade KG for Asik. I just don't see a team giving us value for Asik. Of course, injuries can occur. The picture will get clearer the closer we get to the deadline.

    I'll tell you why Philly would want him. first Sam Hinkie is from the Morey school of thought and Asik is probably viewed as a foundational piece. second Noel is a PF.....so why wouldn't they want a good center next to him? third whatever pieces we take from them will make an all ready bad team worse. even with Asik they will still be bad. ................now the bigger question is what are they willing to give up.......I'm thinking you can't pry that N.O. draft pick out of Hinkie's hands with a crowbar. that's more likely to keep the two teams from agreeing

  • timetodienow1234567 says 8 months ago I think Asik wins a team 10 wins by himself if utilized correctly. So why would a tanking team want him? Philly has Noel, so they're out. New Orleans has Davis, so theyre out. The Celtics might happen but is rondo worth that much? The Blazers and Wolves are impressing and are trying to contend, not give away star players. We might be able to get Ilyasova if Henson starts to come into his own and a third team wants Asik. I'm sure the Nets would trade KG for Asik. I just don't see a team giving us value for Asik. Of course, injuries can occur. The picture will get clearer the closer we get to the deadline.
  • rockets best fan says 8 months ago

    good read Mr. Pina. I was with you all the way till you mentioned trading T-Jones :angry: :lol:I have been singing this guy praises from the moment we drafted him. I have been watching him closely even while he was at Kentucky. this kid has the potential to be on thatlevel just below a star player and possibly could reach star level. T-Jones lacks drive. I was pissed at McHale for not playing him, however that fight to gain playing time seems to have ignited a fire in his belly. this guy has the athletic ability, is long and quick. the only problem in college was Calapari couldn't keep him engaged. he got overshadowed by MKG and Davis. the tuff love approach McHale has given him seems to have done what Calapari couldn't.he needs playing time to perfect some of the shortcomings in his game. he's going to make mistakes. however if he continues to play his overall games will overshadow his faults. question is are the Rockets willing to allow that to happen?right now it's difficult to put your finger on what we need with the Asik trade. that's why I feel Morey has not boxed his self into a corner looking for a certain position. it's more important to get a player who is capable of making an impact. this is how I feel about trading T-Jones.............only if we are getting a star level player in return. he can solve our PF question if given time to do so. IMO our most pressing needs appear to be 1) backup wing who is a 3 and D guy. (aka Afflalo). 2) a backup big man for center position. (aka Spencer Hawes). 3) stretch PFstar level(aka LMA, Love, Horford). any of these additions will improve this team. maybe TT Philly about Hawes and that N.O. pick this year? I trust Morey to do what is best.

  • RollingWave says 8 months ago

    it would depend on so many things, what deals we have, how Asik continue to play (or not play) how Jones play, how the team grows, and how much confidence do the Coaching staff on these guys and the FO on the coaches.

    To be frank, on a marco level there is a ton to like about all of the above, the coaching gets a ton of crap but when you consider the overall situation and talent level they had to work with since they got here, versus the actual result, you would be insane to say it's not a spectacular job. The suns virtually had half of the same roster we had the year before. and how many games they won again?

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    My dailies are like easter eggs. I scatter them around the forum and you have to go looking for them.

    lol

  • thejohnnygold says 8 months ago

    My dailies are like easter eggs. I scatter them around the forum and you have to go looking for them.

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    It certainly does open a lot of doors if we open the roster to no one is untouchable except Harden and Dwight. Right now, I'd say Lin, Parsons, Asik, Jones, and Beverley all have high value plus we're sitting on D-Mo, Covington and Canaan. If you can't fashion a trade out of that you're not trying. Of course, that's on paper. I think Parsons is safe due to his connection to Dwight. I also think we'd be selling low on T-Jones if we traded him right now--he's going to get better.

    Somebody crank up the trade machine....is it time to start a General Rockets Trade thread?

    So when does the first edition of JG's daily come out?

  • thejohnnygold says 8 months ago

    It certainly does open a lot of doors if we open the roster to no one is untouchable except Harden and Dwight. Right now, I'd say Lin, Parsons, Asik, Jones, and Beverley all have high value plus we're sitting on D-Mo, Covington and Canaan. If you can't fashion a trade out of that you're not trying. Of course, that's on paper. I think Parsons is safe due to his connection to Dwight. I also think we'd be selling low on T-Jones if we traded him right now--he's going to get better.

    Somebody crank up the trade machine....is it time to start a General Rockets Trade thread?

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    Nice work. It's amazing much sentiment has changed with regard to TJones now that he got some PT and gained confidence. Very exciting player. Enough to shift views on what Rox need to get out of any Asik trade?

    Marc Stein said that Morey said he just wants anyone who will help the Rockets win games, regardless of position. I doubt Morey would have said that if he wasn't confident that we already have an answer at PF, so I thought that was a little interesting.

  • Juan Grande says 8 months ago

    Nice work. It's amazing much sentiment has changed with regard to TJones now that he got some PT and gained confidence. Very exciting player. Enough to shift views on what Rox need to get out of any Asik trade?

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    I like the Ibaka mention because he used to be horrible at rotation defense, he routinely loss his man while ball watching, but he improved--I'm sure Jones will too.

  • feelingsupersonic says 8 months ago



    I would hate for jones to be dealt, he is playing good D and will get better with experience, shot blocking, rebounding, 14 very efficient points, hitting open 3s, hustle, energy, young, cheap, and getting better. What more could you ask?


    I wrote my comment without even seeing this.
  • feelingsupersonic says 8 months ago Good read, thanks Pina. I can only imagine the uproar in the Forum if Jones was traded.
  • Buckko says 8 months ago

    I would hate for jones to be dealt, he is playing good D and will get better with experience, shot blocking, rebounding, 14 very efficient points, hitting open 3s, hustle, energy, young, cheap, and getting better. What more could you ask?