It’s August, which means that college hoops websites start scrounging for content, and ironically enough, within nine minutes of each other on Thursday morning, Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com and his old buddies over at CBSSports.com posted rankings of the Class of 2014 recruits with the best NBA future in front of them.
CBS polled coaches during the summer months, and 50% of those that answered said that Jahlil Okafor would have the best NBA career. It’s not hard to see why. Okafor is 6-foot-11 and already checks in at over 250 pounds. He’s not a twig, but he also has the nimble footwork and array of post moves necessary to be a low post scoring threat at the highest level. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that he could end up being a sane version of Demarcus Cousins down the road.
Goodman had Okafor second on his list behind Texas native Myles Turner, a guy that we’ve wrote plenty about this summer. Turner is an incredibly well-spoken and intelligent young man — he’s not quite about the fact he wants to be a counselor when basketball comes to an end — but thanks to a broken ankle last summer, he was a virtual non-entity entering the summer. But an athletic, 6-foot-11 shot blocker with range beyond the three-point line doesn’t stay quiet for long, and he quickly shot his way up top 100 lists. The name that keeps popping up with Turner is LaMarcus Aldridge.
Big man Cliff Alexander and point guard Emmanuel Mudiay filled out the rest of the top four in the CBS poll, while those two — and Kelly Oubre — populated Goodman’s top five.
The most interesting aspect of these lists is that Tyus Jones, the guy who many believed was, at worst, a top three player in the class entering the summer, is way down on these lists. CBS had him fifth, while Goodman didn’t even have Jones in his top ten.
And, if we’re being frank, that’s not necessarily a major surprise. Jones is a slender, 6-foot-0 point guard. He doesn’t have the overwhelming athleticism or the unstoppable quickness that some of the best NBA lead guards have. He’s not a physical specimen, comparatively speaking, which puts some limits on his upside. There are questions about his defense and his ability to shoot from the perimeter as well.
But it’s also important to remember that Jones embodies the concept of being a ‘pure point guard’. He’s a tremendous passer with an ability to get the ball where it needs to be on time and on target, which is a trait that is difficult to teach and develop. He understands how to run the pick-and-roll as well as any point guard at the high school level in recent memory. He reads defenses particularly well and is patient enough that he doesn’t need to overpenetrate or force shots that often. Even at this level, where Jones is probably quick enough to beat anyone off the dribble, he’s proven that he understands how to use change-of-pace to beat people off the bounce, and while he prefers to create for others, he’s crafty enough to finish around the rim with difficult, off-balance layups or an array of floaters and short jumpers.
Simply put, Jones understands how to play the game. He understands how to run an offense. He’s unselfish. While the term is overrated and quite often misused, he’s as pure as a point guard can get.
He’s not Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. He’s not Kyrie Irving, and he’s probably not Tony Parker, either. He may never be a star.
But I have a tough time seeing a future where Jones doesn’t find a way to hang around the NBA for a decade.