Terrence Jones announced his intent to enter the NBA Draft on April 16th. The 6-foot-8 sophomore lefty was the starting small forward for the NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats. After averaging 15.7 points per game as a freshman as one of the top dogs at UK, Jones' scoring average fell to 12.3 as a sophomore. With all-world freshmen Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague coming aboard, Jones had to share the rock in more of a supporting role.
Although his scoring declined, his shooting percentage jumped from 44 percent to 50 percent and he still averaged 7.2 rebounds per game despite Davis grabbing nearly every board in sight. Loaded with talent, Jones is a very interesting prospect. He is at least 6-foot-8 with an impressive build and huge wingspan. He can shoot and dribble like a guard and can therefore play almost any position on the floor.
At times, Jones looks like a future superstar. His game is well rounded – his skills and natural ability allow him the potential to do almost everything on the basketball court at a high level. He rebounds, passes and shoots well and when he is on, he can score from anywhere. His ball handling is a strength and he is versatile because of it. Jones, like many southpaws, has a smooth look to him on the court.
So the obvious question is why isn't Jones being pegged as a top five pick? Well for one, sometimes what looks like smooth on the court is in actuality a lack of maximum effort. While characterizing Jones as having a "bad attitude" seems a bit harsh, he is susceptible to losing focus and sulking that is easily visible through bad body language. Kentucky head coach John Calipari publicly challenged him in the media on several occasions in an effort to motivate the talented forward.
In terms of tangible basketball weaknesses, Jones still needs to refine his shot. While he shoots well for someone his size, he will need to work on his mechanics to be able to consistently connect from three from NBA distance. This could prove especially important because Jones occasionally tends to fall in love with the three pointer when he should be spending more time inside utilizing his size and strength. Jones has good strength and appears to work hard in the weight room, but sometimes shies away from contact. If this is something he can fix, his game would improve dramatically. Jones also needs to work on finishing with his right hand.
The most obvious comparison for Jones would be Marvin Williams, who was also a physically gifted and versatile wing on a loaded college team. Another interesting comp is fellow lefty Lamar Odom. Both of these guys are loaded with natural ability but never were dominant NBA players for reasons ranging from attitude problems to lack of motivation or competitiveness. Sound familiar? Odom was at his best as a supporting player on a championship Lakers team, much like Jones at Kentucky.
Jones showed focus and was excellent in the NCAA Tournament. His play was integral in Kentucky giving Calipari his first national title. While that will certainly ease some of the concerns of NBA teams, Jones' mental approach to the pre-draft process will likely be just as important. Look for him to land in the late lottery unless a top ten team is overwhelmed by his potential. It's just speculation, but perhaps Houston's two first round picks would make them more willing to take on the enigmatic Jones.