Terrence Jones emerged as the Rockets’ answer

Before the season began, Houston faced one predominant question regarding its roster. The most pressing question was simply: “Who is our power forward?” Many writers looked outside the current Rockets roster. Some lauded Terrence Jones to be the incumbent starters. Others, still, sought Donatas Motiejunas. To this day, sadly, many still press the idea of trading Omer Asik for a power forward. Faith in the Rockets roster was rare but, where it was present, it was rewarded. Terrence Jones has emerged as the ideal running mate to Dwight Howard in averaging 10 points, 7 rebounds, 1.5 blocks a game on the season. Jones’s PER is around 19, above league average.

A quick disclaimer, Hollinger’s NBA Player Statistics for Power Forwards lists Dwight Howard as a power forward. Reduce all PER ranked spots by one (except for Anthony Davis) to accurately reflect positional roles.

The emergence of Terrence Jones has been a key reason for the early season success of the Rockets. The early experimentation of the Twin Towers ended in disaster. From that disaster, Jones rose like a Phoenix in the ashes of the maligned lineup. Currently Terrence Jones ranks 12th in the NBA in PER, 15th in true shooting percentage, 31st in points and 17th in rebounds. All of this is in only 24 minutes a game. For comparison’s sake, let’s look at some of the other power forwards in the 2012 draft class and see how they stack up to Terrence Jones.

Anthony Davis, the unibrow, the number one pick in the 2012 draft is averaging a dominant 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks a game while posting a 26.4 PER. Let’s face it, Davis is a special talent and that’s why he went number one overall. Jones, still, has posted per 36-minute totals of 15 points and 10 rebounds, not far off of the mark that Anthony Davis is setting in roughly 34 minutes a game.

Thomas Robinson, the fifth pick, former King, Rocket, and current Blazer went number five overall in 2012. This season Robinson is sporting a (roughly) 16 PER, 6 points, 4 rebounds, and .2 blocks per game. Much was made of Robinson’s potential and, sadly, he has not had a chance to really showcase this talent. Houston acquired Robinson for trade purposes despite his immense potential. Robinson is only seeing 12 minutes of floor-time a night with the league darling Portland Trailblazers.

John Henson, not to be confused for a puppeteer, is a close analog for Terrence Jones. Henson is putting up 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game posting a PER of about 20. For reference, that puts Henson in the top 10 most efficient power forwards in the NBA. The Bucks sit at 4-16 but that level of efficiency is impressive for a team that could easily encourage poor shot selection and wasteful play.

The last player to have been drafted in front of Terrence is Royce White. We don’t talk about Royce White.

A look at the comparators reveals one simple fact. Jones is one of the three best power forwards from his draft class. Not only has Terrence managed to carve out a spot amongst the top players in his draft class but the top players at his position.  Jones has managed to carve out such a niche as a player with athleticism at the basket and skill from the three-point line and inward. Jones’s help-side defense and perimeter movement has been a major boost to the Rockets at times. His ability to pull opposing big men away from Dwight Howard on post ups and run the fast break has kept lanes clean for the Rockets in transition. Defensively Terrence Jones is setting the tone on a consistent basis by blowing up the highlight reel with blocks leading to dunks at the opposite end of the floor. Despite all of this the conversation revolving around the Rockets seems to center around the idea that Omer Asik needs to be dealt for a power forward. Just ask yourself one simple question.

Why? Jones is already one of the better power forwards in the league. He’s barely missing the top 10. From a wins-added standpoint Terrence Jones is 19th among power forwards. The players ranked above Jones in this category? Kevin Love, Lamarcus Aldridge, Paul Milsap, Derrick Favors, John Henson, and Ryan Anderson. The majority of those players are considered key to their teams or immovable so long as their teams are viable playoff contenders. For the non-contenders the conversation centers around their integral nature as building blocks. None of the players who could reasonably be moved by their teams are as complementary to Howard as Jones. For example, Jared Sullinger is the only really fungible player ahead of Jones in the wins added column. Boston likes what they have in Sullinger, they’re rebuilding, and his game is similar to Jones’s with some added power and bulk.

At the end of the day, the Rockets are thriving because of the efforts of Terrence Jones. The sophomore power forward is, for all intents and purposes, a rookie on the floor. As a rookie he’s producing at a clip that, in an expanded role, could see production similar to Anthony Davis. The presence of Dwight Howard and James Harden means that Terrence Jones doesn’t need to grow as quickly as Davis nor does Jones have to produce obscene point, rebound, or block totals to contribute to this team’s winning. The situation in Houston is perfect for Jones to develop at his own pace and each step in that development is integral to Houston’s winning ways. The proposed trades by fans and various media outlets eschew that simple principle in favor of sexier names on the trade market. These names, however, are instant producers at higher usage rates, and in more minutes. Is there anything really wrong with winning and letting Terrence develop?

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Total comments: 8
  • RollingWave says 3 days ago

    I like how he got back pretty quickly after a couple crappy game, that was a major concern for him last year

  • rocketrick says 3 days ago

    Very nice post Brandon.

    I definitely agree with you. With the emergence of Terrence Jones, the Rockets don't necessarily need to trade Asik for a PF.

    This should give Morey and the Rockets many more options to consider once the trade offers start rolling in for Asik.

    I wouldn't mind seeing another wing join the team to help cover for injuries during the season plus perhaps a lottery pick or mid level 1st round draft pick.

  • 2016Champions says 3 days ago Terrence Jones has been working hard and it really shows in his game and his physique, I think Morey really struck gold here, what a steal!
  • since86rocketsfan says 3 days ago

    This is nothing new, we saw his bulked up body, as he played well at the summer league. He also played well in the preseason until he got hurt. When he got his shot this year he was ready, his skillset is really a three in a four's body.
    The presence of Howard and Harden does not mean he does not need to grow quickly, it means those two will get most the attention, and he needs to mainly play good d, rebound, and not turn it over a lot. We are not aiming for a playoff berth, we want a trip to the Finals, so Jones needs to be a consistent player.
    We thought when we had Yao and Tmac, that we would be great for years, but injuries ruined that and there careers, so we need some urgency. The bottom line is Howard is the main reason for our early success, if Asik was just at center with Harden out, we would have lost those games this year. Since Jones has been our starter he has helped, but in the preseason we played well with a smaller frontcourt, we struggled when Asik started. I hope Pat gave you that message.

  • Alituro says 3 days ago

    Great post... One thing about Jones' scouting report that concerned everybody was his motor. McHale has done a good job of warming him up each game by going to him early and often in the 1st period. I often wonder if some of the problems he faced coming off the bench was just simply due to his motor not being warmed up.

  • bboley24 says 3 days ago

    AGREE COMPLETELY. He may slump eventually but it's all apart of his maturation.

    We have a VERY deep bench to fill any voids. Look at us now. Doesn't matter who goes down. We have an answer.

    TJones should be here to stay.

    Asik for picks and cash.

  • Steven says 3 days ago

    Awesome article, been saying this for a while. Now I want smith to get healthy and play some backup C mins.

    Why do you want the Rockets to lose?
  • Buckko says 3 days ago

    Awesome article, been saying this for a while. Now I want smith to get healthy and play some backup C mins.