The New Orleans Pelicans signed Terrence Jones last week to a 1-year contract worth reportedly in the $1.5 million dollar range. With very little cap space remaining for the upcoming season, it was a surprise to see the team be able to add a player of Jones' caliber to the roster.
Two years ago, a 22-year-old Jones averaged 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in a little over 27 minutes a game. The future seemed bright, but then a combination of injuries and ineffective play hampered the rest of his time with the Houston Rockets.
The situation became severe enough that Daryl Morey decided to turn towards much maligned players like Josh Smith and Michael Beasley to fill Jones' minutes in the rotation. That is far from a ringing endorsement, but with very little apparent risk associated with this signing, it's difficult to criticize Dell Demps... or is it? Read what grades our writers handed out below!
This is a low-risk, high reward signing of a guy who obviously has great chemistry with Anthony Davis (see 2012 NCAA Championship) who is an absolute steal at $1.5M. Terrence Jones had lost favor with the Houston Rockets' front office after missing a lot of time over the past couple seasons to strange injuries, including a lacerated eyelid and a partially collapsed lung. That should not raise health concerns that slowed the progression he made his second season when he averaged 12.1 PPG 6.9 RPG and 1.3 BPG in 27.3 MPG.
Jones is a solid two-way power forward that takes a lot of pressure off of Davis defensively when he is playing a small ball 5. It was reported that Davis helped persuade Jones into signing with the Pelicans and adding players that AD likes is always a great thing for the Pelicans.
Dell and Danny are a great team. They are like Lil Boosie and Webbie, Jack and Meg or maybe more accurately, James Ingram and Michael McDonald. This offseason was excellent considering the situation. The Pelicans are a small market team, with murky ownership and a pretty lackadaisical casual fanbase. The city’s crime situation, the failing infrastructure, the education system and limited marketing opportunities combined without a winning history to reference, make it a tough sell to free agents — even with two cornerstone players — Davis and Holiday already in place.
With all of this going against them and a comparatively limited amount of cap to spend, this power couple used a fraggrenade method of throwing shrapnel at smart, young, defensive minded players that filled huge areas of need. They didn’t throw cash at flawed big names to appease the average fan. They made basketball moves.
In what is likely their last of the offseason (barring a trade), Demps and Ferry found a Ryan Anderson replacement that should fit better next to Anthony Davis when he shifts to the five on a crazy discount. Writers like Zach Lowe were predicting that Jones would fetch nearly $14-million at one time, yet New Orleans netted him on a minimum contract that is said to be able to max out at $1.5 - million, which would be a great contract for a guy like John Salmons or Donald Sloan in this iteration of the salary cap bonanza. Nabbing a potential starter or sixth man that was the 18th overall pick just 4 years ago who has started 106 games for a playoff team in those four years is an absolute steal no matter how good he actually is.
I trust Jones is more of the potential starter/key contributor than the bust some Houston fans are now claiming that he is. They seem happy to roll the dice on a one-sided injury prone, ball stopper with $80-million in guaranteed money. I’m much happier to gamble on Terrence Jones’ potential at $1.5-million. And Jones’ potential to be a solid contributor is very real. In his rookie season, he posted a 17.1 PER, which never dipped below that number until this past season. He maxed out at 19.1 in his sophomore year when he played 76 games — starting 71. Last season he battled a few weird injuries including a broken rib and a collapsed lung. The Rockets team declined drastically and so did Terrence Jones. Jones posted a 13.5 PER, which was a massive dip for him. However, compared to max contract player, Harrison Barnes that 13.5 is higher than Barnes has ever posted in his career.
At 6’-9" and 252 lbs, Jones has the ability to play the four, or he can even log minutes at the five. While he isn’t a crazy good athlete, he is quick enough and has enough hops to effectively guard most big men and a large portion of threes while also giving you drives, off-ball cuts and dunks on the other end. He’s only a 31% career three point shooter, so his stroke needs some work. However, in his worst season Jones was still able to convert 61% of his shots around the rim while also boasting an eFG% of 65% on set jumpers. I admittedly didn't watch many Rockets games, but going through his highlights I see that he is also very good at finishing through contact, has adequate hands, a good handle and above average playmaking ability at his position.
At the price-tag, this move has to be rewarded with an A. Drink some of the Kool-Aid and check out Terrence’s best game:
That simple. We got him for how much? 1.5 million? A guy who has averaged over 10 points and 5 rebounds per game in his career, can play both big man positions, is feisty, and is a former teammate and friend of Anthony Davis is coming in for the bargain of the summer. It almost makes up for Omer Asik. Moreover, it gives the Pelicans the flexibility to go fast and small without limiting the effectiveness of AD.
Jones can be sturdy defensively against the right matchup, but I'm excited to see he and Davis on the block together. Both can stretch the floor a little bit, and hopefully their connection from their UK days hasn't abraded. I love the price and timing of this deal, but Jones is someone I'd love to stick around, too. For now, though, I actually just have to say good job, Demps. First time for everything.
The reason I did not give this an A is simply because we are talking about Terrence Jones and not a true difference maker. However, relative to the options out there, the cap space the Pels had remaining and their need for frontcourt help, the signing should be given an A.
Anthony Davis finally turned on the charm to recruit a player that has been linked to $10 million per year in the past to sign on for the minimum. Jones gives the Pels a capable NBA talent that will also give the Pels some different small ball lineup options. A Jrue-Moore-Hill-Jones-AD lineup could be a fun one to watch.
The Pelicans picked up a versatile big who can play 3-5 and has a history of playing solid defense. Did I mention that he's still young (24) with room for improvement? This signing would've been B-/C+ if the Pels had paid $9-15 per season I thought it would take to grab Jones, but at near the league minimum, I can't really complain about the pickup.
Jones has had some injury issues, but again at near league minimum you can't ask for much more at this point in free agency. Add to all of this that Anothony Davis wanted Jones and reportedly recruited him, I don't see any down side to this low risk/high reward signing.
Terrence Jones is still a talented basketball player and just 24 years old. I thought he would be significantly more expensive in the new cap era; Zach Lowe suggested $15 million last October. At (or near) the minimum, the only real risk here is opportunity cost of a roster spot. Someone was going to get the ~$1.2 million Terrence Jones will receive. If Jones performs anywhere near his 2013-15 self this contract will be an absolute steal.
A cheap flier on a one year deal?
Anthony Davis recruiting old teammates?
Getting more depth in the front court?
I'm with it.
With the influx of guards, the Pelicans had a noticeable shortage of bigs on the roster, so they went out and addressed that need... and did so for cheap. Sure, Jones' numbers took a nosedive this past season, but in 2013-14 and 2014-15 Jones averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds. I'll take my chances that that's the version of Jones New Orleans is getting. I like that he can and has spent time playing center, even as high as 44 percent of the time he was on the floor in 2014-15; I also like that he's a former college teammate of Anthony Davis, and that he apparently took less money to come to New Orleans.
The only thing holding me back from adding a plus symbol next to the A grade is the uncertainty revolving around Terrence Jones. In a salary cap era that saw some ridiculous sums handed out to average or even below average players, why did Jones only command something a shade over the minimum? There has to be some serious concerns behind closed doors about either his mental makeup, his habits in general or injury issues, right?
Regardless, as others have mentioned, there is practically no risk associated with this signing besides a roster spot. Even that can be remedied with a waiver at a later date if necessary. Thus, Jones is the perfect upside play for the Pelicans. The team has his good friend from the University of Kentucky in the locker room and potentially plenty of minutes to offer in small ball lineups alongside Davis.
From the great Jim Foley: Terrence Jones, 22, is the second youngest Rockets player to score 30 in a game. Hakeem was 47 days younger.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) January 19, 2014
For a talent like Jones, it's an incredibly smart gamble.