Perry Jones III has been absolutely impressive so far in the preseason for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He most recently dropped 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting as the Thunder beat the Charlotte Bobcats for their first win of the preseason.
Jones scored his 17 points with style too including three dunks where he showed off just how crazy of an athlete he is. Jones has impressed the Thunder fans, his teammates and head coach Scott Brooks. But that doesn’t mean he will be cracking the rotation just yet.
“And how good he played, he still backs up Kevin [Durant], so there aren’t a lot minutes,” Brooks told the Daily Thunder. “We’re all excited. He did so many things well last game but still, he’s a rookie and Kevin’s pretty good.”
We’re not calling for Jones to start playing 30 minutes per game right off the bat. If anything, Thunder fans are just hoping to see him out there from the start of the season. You can say he is backing up Durant because Nick Collison backs up Serge Ibaka and Cole Aldrich backs up Kendrick Perkins. But we all know Durant doesn’t play the three exclusively, and neither should Jones.
That leaves the sexy lineup of Durant and Jones on the floor at the same time. They are similarly athletically and the versatility with such a lineup would be awesome. Brooks talked about the potential of the two sharing the floor together.
“I like that lineup and I haven’t really figured that out,” Brooks said. “With Perry and Kevin they’re the same size and they’re the same athleticism. They can guard each other in practice, which I think helps them. But in the game they can switch, whoever has the mismatch they can go at them in the post. I think they’ve worked that out fairly well.”
Daequan Cook backed up Durant for much of last season at the three. But he didn’t always leave the floor when Durant came back in. The Thunder played a lot of small ball with Durant at the four at the end of the second and fourth quarters and Cook would stay in to help stretch the floor. The Thunder left themselves vulnerable defensively and on the boards with that lineup and while the offense thrived more, it didn’t always result in the best outcome on the scoreboard.
Cook will still very much be an option in that role this coming season although it seems to be lessened somewhat with the emergence of Jones. The Thunder won’t have to sacrifice the defense and rebounding if it’s Jones on the floor instead of Cook. They will still have plenty of size and be able to stretch the floor a little more so than with their starting unit that featured Ibaka and Perkins at the four and five.
“I think the biggest thing I like is I threw up a lot of different things and multiple positions and he was able to pick things up fairly quick,” Brooks said. “I say this all the time, it’s not an easy thing to do to pick this league up quickly as a rookie because there are a lot of things thrown at you … but we played him at the 3, we played him at the 4, we had him guard perimeter guys, he had to guard big guys, he brought the ball up the floor, they were pressing and he made good decisions. And he finished around the basket. His ball handling was good. I thought he was really good all game long.”
It sounds like Brooks already has a lot of confidence in what Jones can do. Now it will just be about convincing himself to play Jones over some players that were established in the Thunder rotation a year ago. Those players are mainly Perkins, Collison and Cook.
Cook seems like he can easily be bumped by Jones at least sooner than the others. Collison and Perkins will be tougher for Jones to overcome and it will probably depend on the matchup. The matchups in today’s NBA are often calling for smaller lineups rather than the traditional ones that Brooks seems to like.
At the end of the day, it will really be up to Jones. He has done a lot already but he needs to keep improving and impressing to give Brooks less and less reasons not to play him. One of the knocks on Jones coming out of college was he sometimes got lost in the shuffle and wasn’t aggressive. If that is true even just a little, we may be left waiting longer than we should to see Jones logging heavy minutes with the Thunder.