When it comes to selecting players in the NBA draft, potential and production have long battled one another in the minds of each team's top decision makers. Is selecting an undeveloped talent with incredible "raw" ability worth more than taking a serviceable "sure thing" who holds a limited ceiling?
Earlier today, Baylor sophomore Perry Jones III announced his plan to leave school and enter the NBA draft. He's the most interesting pawn this argument's had in years; a case can be made that no player in recent memory does a better job of matching otherworldly skill with overwhelming frustration. In his two years at Baylor, Jones has been college basketball's great model of inconsistency. Before the season began, the 6'11" Jones was pegged as a sure-fire top five pick, with some scouts even pegging him in as a possible number one overall selection. But after another up and down season that saw him disappear time and time again in the biggest of moments, the prodigious 20-year-old has dropped down to the middle of the first round on several boards.
In an insider article, ESPN.com's Chad Ford says a possible reason for Jones' unpredictable play was Baylor head coach Scott Drew's decision to play him out of position. With the mentality of a guard who likes the ball in his hands on the perimeter, it's crucial for whatever team that selects Jones to place him in situations where he's comfortable. One site has compared him to Anthony Randolph, which isn't glowing praise. But on the other end, Jones has the physical skill set to dominate on both ends of the court. Think Lamar Odom or LaMarcus Aldridge.
From a statistical standpoint, Jones' numbers didn't improve from his freshman to sophomore season. He averaged 13.5 PPG this year but his points and free-throw attempts went slightly down while his rebounds (7.6 RPG) stayed the same. There was no more aggression in his second year than there was in his first, no enhancement in attitude or change in style.
Jones has unbelievable talent, but which team selects him could be a larger factor in determining what type of career he has than his ability to exercise that once in a generation type of skill. His upside is scary but so is his basement.
Perry Jones III is the 2012 draft's most delicate flower, and right now the sun isn't shining in Charlotte, Toronto, Washington D.C., or any other cities that are most likely to scoop him in a move of pure desperation.