Houston Rockets’ summer assignment list: Part 4, Terrence Jones

Terrence Jones last year, in his first regular stint of playing time, at just 22 years of age, put up twelve points and seven rebounds per game on 54% shooting from the field.  Per 36 minutes, that already impressive production stretches out to a meaty 16 and 9.  Despite my criticisms, this is a chip.

In many ways, Jones was the very symbol of the Rockets’ 2013-2014 campaign.  It was Jones’ insertion into the starting lineup, in place of the plodding Omer Asik, that catapulted Houston into the upper echelon of offensive units, his cuts to the rim and overall deft finishing ability (72% on close field goals) providing Dwight Howard and James Harden the room they needed to operate.  It was Jones’ steady play that allowed Daryl Morey to hold his hand at the deadline rather than cash in on one of the unflattering Asik deals on the market, and it was Jones’ play, perhaps, that kept Morey from overpaying for the veteran he probably needed.  In the playoffs, Jones’ position was the difference where he had no business sharing the court with forward LaMarcus Aldridge – the team had no choice but to play Asik and Howard in concert, simply to keep Aldridge, relatively speaking, at bay.

I argued at last season’s trade deadline that entering the postseason without a veteran starting power forward would be the cause of the Rockets’ demise.  We don’t know if a deal was available, but looking back, I think that statement was true.  (Understand that I’m not criticizing the Rockets.  A deal simply may not have been available.  But the point is that, regardless of whether anyone was there to be had, this was the team’s biggest weakness).  Holding off on a deal, if one was there to be had, is what also set them up to pursue Chris Bosh.  In hindsight, that now, of course, is a moot point.  With how things played out, however, had I told you Houston would have struck out on every major free agent this summer, you would have gladly sent a package of Omer Asik and Terrence Jones to Atlanta for Paul Millsap at last year’s deadline, if that deal had been available.

After failing to upgrade the position, the team now enters next year, Dwight Howard’s 29th living on this planet, with Jones as the incumbent starter.  That’s troubling, in ways unfair to Jones.  In a vacuum, he’s a tantalizing prospect.  A full-sized (sort-of) power forward with plus athleticism and elite ball-handling for the position.  And most impressive of all, he’s done it!  As mentioned in the preamble, at just 22, the kid put up 12 and 7 in helping a sort-of contender into the thick of the playoff standings.  That’s significant and one wonders how the market may view him.  This writer, certainly, has honed in on his flaws on this very page and on Twitter.  But Jones’ production will increase simply through the dictates of age, even without further skill development; the defensive missteps will be fewer in number with increased exposure.

But does Houston–does Howard–have time to wait?  Typical of my scientific approach to all things, I threw a dart and chose Dirk Nowitzki randomly as a fair defensive comparison of a Western Conference foe.  (Choosing the likes of Ibaka, Splitter, Griffin, or Aldridge would not be very fair).  Overall, Jones’ man scored 41% of the time on Jones (in comparison to 36% against Nowitzki), 38 to 32 in isolation, 46 to 37 in post-ups, and 54 to 23 off screens.  And this is with Dwight Howard and Omer Asik providing weakside help as opposed to the hapless Samuel Dalembert.  (To Jones’ credit, when his opponent was the roll man in the P&R, he scored just 36% of the time, compared to 50% for Dirk’s opponent.  Jones’ ability to hedge and switch quickly on the perimeter may have been one of McHale’s early reasons for thrusting Jones into the lineup.  That and the fact the team was scoring like 13 points per 100 possessions with Asik).

In the loaded Western Conference, already at an offensive disadvantage, can the Rockets really afford inferior defensive production at the margins?  One has to hope that a summer in the weight room and increased focus leads to improvement on the important end for Jones.  Either that or the (unlikely) trade for the veteran.

One might argue that any offensive improvements would be gravy, but that would not entirely be accurate.  One theory behind Dwight Howard’s struggles against the Clippers and Thunder (perhaps Houston’s two most important foes) was that in not fearing Jones, the two teams were able to snuff out Howard in the paint.  While shooting 58% overall on 2′s, the Kentucky forward shot under 40% from mid-range, and just 30% on 3′s.  If already closing off the lane, and not respecting him from deep, those teams did not need to account for Jones.  (Jones did score a sparkling 70% of the time off cuts, leading one to make the brilliant conclusion those better teams rotated more crisply on the interior than the Milwaukee Bucks of the world).

In a perfect world, I would have locked Terrence Jones in a basement this summer with nothing but a DVR of Carl Landry’s second season.  In all my years following this team, I’ve never seen a player make a more significant leap in skill development from one year to the next than Landry following his rookie campaign.  Having lost the athleticism upon which he originally relied, due to various leg injuries and a gunshot wound (!!), Landry came back in year 2 with an assortment of dribble face-up moves and mid-range potency.  Jones, similarly sized, and with similar ability to dribble, would make a good mold.  But his release is so awkward and slow–essentially an overhead slingshot–that one has a tough time envisioning him developing as a plausible midrange threat.  For that to happen, he’d have to reshape his form, and that rarely ever happens in the NBA.

The short story is that the Rockets probably need an upgrade here to seriously contend.  But with few options left on the market, Houston had better hope that Jones continues to mature.  He will improve, but will it be enough?

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Total comments: 21
  • thejohnnygold says 6 days ago

    Monroe, Really??

    The next 30 days or so prior to the NBA getting serious is gonna be pathetic on this board, I can already tell..............

    Contribute then.....

    Start a topic. Say something interesting. Try not being so.....positive? :unsure:

    As for Monroe....I don't know. I watched him plenty last season. He's a great interior passer and a decent post scorer....after that....there's not much there. I don't see him developing an outside shot which only leaves room for improvement on his defense.

    Basically, as long as Dwight is here there's no room for him except on the bench behind Dwight....which I doubt is where he wants to be.

    I say save the 2nd rounders and let him be someone else's disappointment.

  • rocketrick says 6 days ago Monroe, Really??

    The next 30 days or so prior to the NBA getting serious is gonna be pathetic on this board, I can already tell..............
  • Steven says 6 days ago I'd take him for the Rockets 2015 & 2016 2nd round pick.
  • rockets best fan says 6 days ago

    @JG

    seeing as how Detroit is in a jam..............if we could swing giving up a couple of second rounder's and absorb him with our trade exemption would you do it? we would have a chance to feel him out for a year at low budget before having to make any decision on him.I was thinking about it, but I'm still against it. he just doesn't play enough defense for me and we already have one of those no defense guys :lol:

  • thejohnnygold says 1 week ago

    @JG

    LA can only trade our pick or their 2017. I doubt Detroit is interested in our pick and I'm sure LA will want protection on their 2017. just seems Detroit won't have a positive happen from this situation. the deck is stacked against them. everybody in the league knows their problem and any offers will reflect that fact. they would probably be lucky to come away with Lin :lol:messing with LA

    I agree. I'm not sure why my point is not coming across here. I suppose it is because everyone wants "max value" every time in every trade. To me, the max value is in moving on and getting him out of the way while adding anything useful in return--like a SF. No draft pick is fine. Anything is fine. Fill out the bench....whatever.

    It's a lose-lose scenario for them. They might as well just get it over with and move on sooner than later. Teams are not going to over pay so why hold out? He is a no range, no D big man (actual height is 6' 10"--not the 7' people label him with) who is good, but not great. Take what you can get, move on, and remember how awesome it is that you've got Drummond instead of Monroe.

    Like Steven said, someone will throw stupid money at him in free agency next season.

  • rockets best fan says 1 week ago

    @JG

    LA can only trade our pick or their 2017. I doubt Detroit is interested in our pick and I'm sure LA will want protection on their 2017. just seems Detroit won't have a positive happen from this situation. the deck is stacked against them. everybody in the league knows their problem and any offers will reflect that fact. they would probably be lucky to come away with Lin :lol:messing with LA

  • thejohnnygold says 1 week ago

    Ain't no one trading much for a Monroe rental. He will test FA, and someone will throw stupid money at him.

    That's why I think they should just go ahead and move him for whatever they can get. They aren't going to over-pay him after this season and he is gumming up the works. They need to move Smith inside and bring in some wing help.

    If I were them I'd try to steal Wesley Johnson or Xavier Henry plus a draft pick from LA. LA needs a starting center more than an extra SF and they have reason to believe they can retain him long term.

  • Steven says 1 week ago

    Yeah. Moving Smith would be tough. I think they could get some draft picks/young talent for Monroe. I think that would be fine as he is over-rated in my book. He's good, but he's not taking a team to the finals. Given that they need to change the team dynamic and find more young talent why not give him away to a team like Boston, Miami, the Lakers, or even the Knicks?

    Ain't no one trading much for a Monroe rental. He will test FA, and someone will throw stupid money at him.
  • thejohnnygold says 1 week ago

    @JG

    I don't know if Detroit will move either J-Smith or Monroe. Monroe can veto any trade and there isn't much of a market for J-Smith at the moment....especially in light of his contract. currently they would be lucky to get .25 cents on the dollar for either one. SVG has quite a mess on his hands. I'm interested to see how he fixes it. ideally he could move one and Jennings for a real PG. but that ain't gonna happen. I understand why he played hard ball with Monroe, but Monroe signing that QO called his bluff. in many ways he was faced with the same problem we had in matching Parsons. if he paid Monroe their still not contenders but it will lock up the salary cap. Stan got work to do :P

    Yeah. Moving Smith would be tough. I think they could get some draft picks/young talent for Monroe. I think that would be fine as he is over-rated in my book. He's good, but he's not taking a team to the finals. Given that they need to change the team dynamic and find more young talent why not give him away to a team like Boston, Miami, the Lakers, or even the Knicks?

  • rockets best fan says 1 week ago

    @JG

    I don't know if Detroit will move either J-Smith or Monroe. Monroe can veto any trade and there isn't much of a market for J-Smith at the moment....especially in light of his contract. currently they would be lucky to get .25 cents on the dollar for either one. SVG has quite a mess on his hands. I'm interested to see how he fixes it. ideally he could move one and Jennings for a real PG. but that ain't gonna happen. I understand why he played hard ball with Monroe, but Monroe signing that QO called his bluff. in many ways he was faced with the same problem we had in matching Parsons. if he paid Monroe their still not contenders but it will lock up the salary cap. Stan got work to do :P

  • Buckko says 1 week ago

    I know. That doesn't change the fact that they need to trade one of the two.

    Never said it did, just stating news.

  • thejohnnygold says 1 week ago

    Monroe signed the QO.

    I know. That doesn't change the fact that they need to trade one of the two.

  • Buckko says 1 week ago

    Monroe signed the QO.

  • thejohnnygold says 2 weeks ago

    @JG

    I'm floored to see your position on J-Smith after how we debated him last year :huh:however I agree with your assessment. I also agree that allowing T-Jones to mature is our best course of action. I also believe the PF market is dry and the possible acquisitions available would not be worth the assets necessary to acquire them and would not be enough of an upgrade to warrant such a move. Rahat's only real question is will T-Jones develop before D-12 starts to decline. I agree with you..........I think he will. I think you raise a valid point that has been overlooked by Milsap proponents. he is no better at holding western conference PF's than T-Jones. sure he shoot from outside better, but remember we are talking about a finished product in Milsap. not so in the case of T-Jones. I like Milsap, but he is not the answer to our problems. IMO our attention is better focused on upgrading other areas of the team like PG, Coach, etc.

    I still think Smith has a chance. If anyone can bring out the best in him, Van Gundy is the guy. The problem in Detroit continues to be roster construction first and foremost. They need to make a trade and I seriously doubt they are moving Drummond. One of Monroe/Smith is getting moved this year--they just have to.

  • Buckko says 2 weeks ago

    Milsap is also even shorter than jones too.

  • rockets best fan says 2 weeks ago

    @JG

    I'm floored to see your position on J-Smith after how we debated him last year :huh:however I agree with your assessment. I also agree that allowing T-Jones to mature is our best course of action. I also believe the PF market is dry and the possible acquisitions available would not be worth the assets necessary to acquire them and would not be enough of an upgrade to warrant such a move. Rahat's only real question is will T-Jones develop before D-12 starts to decline. I agree with you..........I think he will. I think you raise a valid point that has been overlooked by Milsap proponents. he is no better at holding western conference PF's than T-Jones. sure he shoot from outside better, but remember we are talking about a finished product in Milsap. not so in the case of T-Jones. I like Milsap, but he is not the answer to our problems. IMO our attention is better focused on upgrading other areas of the team like PG, Coach, etc.

  • thejohnnygold says 2 weeks ago

    you left off josh smith, dude can't play sf, but as a pf he's a monster on d and average on offense...kind of the opposite of jones...but just putting him out there as a another option. And the dude could definitely guard those guys if he's invested, age 28 so in his prime physically.

    Fair point. I've kind of given up on Smith. I watched a lot of Detroit games last season on League Pass. The guy seems to just get dumber and dumber every year. Maybe it was coaching, or the system, or I don't know....but for every good play he makes sure to add two bone-headed ones to balance it out. I'm not sure he will ever get it. I thought a change of scenery would do him good, but I was so very, very wrong.

    I agree that when focused he is a force. If we could get him to solely run offense from the high/low post and play lockdown D he'd be a great pick up. Sadly, he seems to want to prove the world wrong and is trying to shoot his way out of a career-long slump from 16 ft. and out. Check out this shooting chart for him. LINK The guy shoots 71% within 3 feet, but only shoots there a quarter of the time. Meanwhile, long twos and threes get shot roughly 45% of the time while only going in about 31% combined. Ouch.

    I think I'd rather gamble on Jones' future development then gamble on Smith changing his ways.

  • Cooper says 2 weeks ago Smith could be had for cheap, we'd be basically all in on that core lineup though maybe plus a solid MLE guy in FA. Probably worth looking into but I wouldn't jump at the chance just to make a move.
  • Losthief says 2 weeks ago

    you left off josh smith, dude can't play sf, but as a pf he's a monster on d and average on offense...kind of the opposite of jones...but just putting him out there as a another option. And the dude could definitely guard those guys if he's invested, age 28 so in his prime physically.

  • thejohnnygold says 2 weeks ago

    I can appreciate the question marks about Jones. Certainly, after 1 full season and at the age of 22 no one can safely anoint him as any kind of future all-star. On the flip side, the same applies in writing off any potential growth he can develop. Rahat dove into the details--the poor release, the poor defense, the lack of range, etc. In one way, I think that misses the forest for the trees.

    There is tons to like about Jones and he won't be the first player to succeed (if he does) with poor shooting form (Joakim Noah and Shawn Marion come to mind). The question seems to be similar to 5 card draw in poker. Do you sit tight with your pair of Jacks or trade in a few cards trying to get to that straight or flush? The good news is in basketball you get to see the cards before they are dealt--the bad news, as Rahat mentioned, is there may not be any willing "dealers" at the table.

    That's the thing in my eyes. Yes, Jones has faults. Yes, there are better PF's in the league. How many of those PF's are realistically attainable? Unlike most, I do not think the Pellies first is all that valuable. It is likely to fall outside of the top 10 in my opinion (not likely to produce a star). Most teams don't seem to be able to capitalize on 2nd rounders so those have little value to them. After that, we're dealing young talent away. Unproven, flawed players that mostly contain one high end skill do not add up to all-star power forwards--even with middle of the road 1st rounder thrown in.

    Who in this league represents an upgrade? Let's make a list:

    LaMarcus Aldridge

    Blake Griffin

    Serge Ibaka

    Kevin Love

    Anthony Davis

    Paul Millsap

    Dirk Nowitzki

    Tim Duncan

    LeBron James

    Chris Bosh

    Carmelo Anthony

    Taj Gibson (I think he is very similar to Jones and benefits from playing for Thibs on the defensive end so this one is a maybe)

    Greg Monroe (isn't he in the same boat as Jones--lacks range and defense)

    Ryan Anderson (his neck concerns me a great deal, but there is no denying his offense when healthy...defense....??? I do think NO will trade him sooner than later, but what's the price tag?)

    David West (already discussed at length and, mostly, is too old and expensive to merit the trade)

    Nene

    Andray Blatche?

    Markieff Morris?

    Ersan Ilyasova? (can he stay healthy anymore?)

    ...as you can see we are getting closer and closer to A'Mare Stoudemire territory. I'm not saying all those guys above are better than Jones. Rather, they all represent an alternative to the "cards" we currently have.

    Of those guys, how many are actually available for trade? Obviously, Aldridge, Griffin, Ibaka, Love, James, Anthony, Bosh, Nowitzki, and Duncan are out. No surprise--they are the best ones.

    At the next level, you've got Gibson, Monroe, Anderson, Blatche, Morris, West, and Ilyasova. Now, of those guys who would you want to replace Jones? Remember, money, age, and fit matter.

    Monroe wants max money, can't shoot, and is known to be poor defensively. That's a no.

    Gibson is a wash in my book as he is a similar player to Jones and why give up players/picks for what is, essentially, an even swap?

    Blatche is known to disappear, is also known to be a less than stellar defender, would cost more, and is much older. Pass.

    Morris is similar to Jones in my book with less athleticism. I would not trade for him believing it would be a significant upgrade.

    Ilyasova struggles to stay healthy (a big concern at this point), costs more and has peaked talent-wise. Also not an elite defender.

    West. No.

    Ryan Anderson....this guy just won't go away. I think he would be a boon for our offense. There is no doubt about that. If his neck is healed and he can stay healthy (only one full season in 6 tries) he would work. He is only 26! (I thought he was around 30) The defense is bad. Would the offense off-set the defense? Aren't we trying to move away from the all-offense approach? If Morey made this move, I would understand. I also would not lose sleep knowing he passed on an Anderson deal if it was on the table.

    This leaves Paul Millsap (who I purposely left in limbo). I am shocked at how people continue to believe he is so readily available. That's not David Kahn sitting in the GM chair--it's Danny Ferry. Ferry is a Popovich disciple who has hired Pop's #2 coach (Budenholzer) and is on his way to building the Spurs "East" having already shown he has some serious GM chops.

    There is no way on the planet Millsap gets traded for a 1st, some 2nds, and a couple of our D-League guys/cast-offs. If Millsap were in New York he would be a star. He is the perfect "San Antonio" guy--blue collar, plays for cheap, doesn't need the spotlight, high IQ, and on and on....

    Long story short--he is not available unless we put together a HUGE offer. HUGE. Pellies 1st, 2nd rounders, D-Mo, Jones, and probably Daniels and Papanikoloau too. At minimum that is what I would want if I were Ferry. This is presuming he is willing to trade him at all.

    They are going to contend this season if they can stay healthy. I wouldn't be surprised if they made the EC Finals. Millsap, Horford, Teague, Antic, and Korver are a solid group plus they have depth with Sefolosha, Scott, Carroll, Mack, Schroeder, and others. Good coaching. Good players. A weak conference. Plus, they have cap room and depth that could allow them to swing a deal. I will be watching them closely this season.

    Trading Millsap for our grab bag of potential is a step back for them. I appreciate that wanting him on the Rockets makes sense, but it just isn't in the cards unless Millsap himself demands a trade. Sorry.

    (Now, before anyone reminds me that we shouldn't say "no" until we've kicked the tires I will remind that I presume Morey does this already. If I had direct lines to the 31 GM's in this league believe me I'd use them. I don't so I have to make educated guesses. If Morey called Cuban about Dirk I can guarantee he has called every Gm about their PF's too.)

    In my estimation, the only trade that makes any sense is for Anderson. I think they would happily trade him for our "grab bag of potential".

    The question then becomes is our bird in the hand better than Anderson? All things considered, I say yes. There is no reason to believe Jones can't, nor won't, figure it out defensively. Offensively, I think he can reach a respectable shooting level as well. Add to that his age, the fact we get to keep our picks/young players, and we aren't putting all of our eggs in Ryan Anderson's injury-riddled basket and I think it's a no-brainer.

    Jones is our guy moving forward. I think he is going to get there. I think we will all sing Morey's praises in a year or two for not trading Jones away as we watch him develop into a solid role player on our championship roster B)

    One last note--since it is one of the primary negatives used against Jones--does anyone think Millsap or Anderson are going to provide the necessary defense against the PF's of the Western Conference?

    Blake Griffin averaged 26, 8, and 5 against Atlanta on 58% shooting last season.

    Aldridge averaged 18, 11, and 2 shooting 29% (10-34 overall with 15 ft's in 2 games playing 30 mpg)

    Anthony Davis averaged 31, 11, and 2 on 61% shooting plus a block and steal.

    Kevin Love averaged 29, 16, and 3 on 55% shooting.

    Serge Ibaka averaged 14, 7 and 1 on 50% shooting with 4 blks/game.

    Dirk put up 20, 4, and 3 on 52% shooting (71% from 3!!!)

    I know, these are 2 game samples, but they're all we've got. Overall, not good....not good at all.

  • The Duke of Earl. says 2 weeks ago

    I totally agree with you about TJ. I live in Oregon and go to school in Portland, so I know about Jones. I hope he is in the weight room and gaining strength. He has freak athleticism and he could work on his Jump Shot. He shot okay from 3's at the Toyota Center and whenever we had big leads in other Arena's. But what if Atlanta would accept T. Jones and the Pelicans' pick plus the Second round picks for Paul Millsap. He had a career year shooting wise (i did not know this guy could hit the 3 at a good % and in the Playoffs) But, Rahat can you give me other trade scenarios if the Rockets want to get a Veteran PF to line up next to Howard. So you basically just compared Dirk to Terrance defensively? But Dirk is in his 30's yo, granted he has never been a superior defender and it won't get better with Felton, Monta, and now Chandler. Basically if I am D. Morey i would make a trade to get that big that could be better than what D12 had in Orlando. Paging Taj Gibson, but i can't see Bulls HC let him leave! Great article and i like reading your stuff man! Go Rockets!!!