Kai Jones is an enigma.
To be clear, that’s meant to be endearing. Jones is an embodiment of the “ball of clay” prospect philosophy, a participant with otherworldly uncooked potential however a skillset uncooked sufficient that their archetype may nonetheless be molded into no matter a group’s improvement workers envisions. The 6-foot-11 large man remains to be simply 21 years outdated and it looks as if he’s added a brand new wrinkle to his sport, nonetheless large or small, every time he takes the courtroom. When he’s capable of harness his explosive athleticism and fuse it collectively together with his gifted coordination and mobility for lengthy stretches, the imaginative and prescient is obvious as day; a rim-runner that may additionally put the ball on the deck and assault from past the three-point line. That’s an exquisite would-be match subsequent to LaMelo Ball.
Jones has hardly ever put all of it collectively for prolonged stretches in his brief NBA profession, although, and that’s simply high-quality. He started enjoying basketball in his late-teens, hit a progress spurt late in highschool and was primarily a bench participant in his two seasons at Texas. Anticipating that prospect to come back into the league and make an impression in his first season can be an excessive amount of, however it’s honest to search for tangible progress from Jones in his second season.
The 0-for-10 three-point capturing sport from Summer season League may stick out resulting from recency bias, however Jones had a stellar season within the G League final yr, particularly within the latter half. In his final eight games with the Swarm, Jones averaged 20.1 factors, 9.6 rebounds, 1 help, 1.6 steals and a pair of.5 blocks per sport whereas capturing 44.4 % on 2.3 three-point makes an attempt per sport. These huge field rating numbers go the attention check on movie as properly — Jones had his fingerprints throughout every sport as soon as he settled in and was capable of give many a glimpse of his potential.
Of the three gamers featured to date within the Participant Preview collection, Jones is the primary with an actual probability to carve out a rotation spot however with how the depth chart has shaken out at heart, it could be unfair to Jones count on that he see the ground on a game-to-game foundation. Head coach Steve Clifford can solely dole out so many minutes to bigs and the Hornets have 4 rotational facilities, however there are some minutes up for grabs.
There’d be nothing unsuitable with Jones spending a while with Greensboro this fall as Charlotte performs out the primary quarter of the season and determines methods to manage their roster going ahead; it’s not his fault that there’s a veteran and two different latest draftees at his place. Projecting Jones’ function for this season with out understanding which of the younger bigs Clifford prefers is troublesome as a result of in contrast to Plumlee and Nick Richards, there aren’t any significant NBA minutes from earlier seasons to base an opinion off of. Certainly Plumlee and Richards have the upper-hand(s) on the heart minutes in October, however who’s to say that gained’t change by January?
When it comes to ability development, nailing down a constant launch level on his jumper and bettering his back-to-the-basket footwork can be wise factors of emphasis for this season no matter his place on the depth chart. Important defensive enhancements have a tendency to come back with reps for bigs, particularly these with relative inexperience as an anchor and rim protector at decrease ranges. Jones’ penchant for utilizing his springboard hops, outstretching his Extendo arms and biting on ball fakes to chase after blocks has slowly reworked into extra of a foible as he receives extra minutes at heart and fewer as an experimental stretch-four.
Jones has the potential to develop right into a key cog in the way forward for the Charlotte Hornets. Let’s hope he will get an opportunity to proceed bettering and understanding the kinks this season whether or not its with the Hornets, the Swarm or each.