He may not be a household name for anyone who doesn’t follow the Oklahoma City Thunder, but you may be hearing more and more about him as the season and push for a playoff spot starts to heat up.
Perry Jones III is a 6’11″ forward in his second year with the Thunder. He was a standout collegiate player at Baylor and was considered a lottery pick until some unfavorable reports on the state of his knees saw him fall all the way down the draft board and almost out of the first round completely.
Sam Presti though, gave the kid a lifeline and so far, he is repaying that faith. While coach Scott Brooks is not known for his flexibility or fondness of playing rookies, Jones struggled to find an identity on this Thunder team in his first year. He played sparingly and limited minutes at best, most coming in blowouts.
This season however, the tables have turned and his hard work and patience is beginning to pay off.
Jones is carving out a niche in the side through his effort with the second unit, his length and athleticism and his ability to play defense. He has worked his way into the rotation with his high basketball IQ and has also added a long range shot that is helping his cause and the Thunder’s as well.
The value of Jones became apparent to all those outside the tight knit Thunder group when Oklahoma City took on the Miami Heat. The Thunder hadn’t beaten the Heat since Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals, they were playing in Miami and they were locked in an intense battle. Jones started the second half, logged 30 minutes of game time – the majority of those guarding the reigning MVP and two time NBA Champion LeBron James – and performed superbly.
This outing showed the rest of the basketball world what OKC have known since drafting Jones – he is one heck of a basketball player. Locking into the challenge of guarding the games best player seem to suit Jones. He is gifted athletically and he is always up for a challenge. He plays with heart and hustle and doesn’t want to lose. In short – he is a guy you want to go to war with.
When the playoffs come around, the Thunder will be hoping to be at full strength. The will have Russell Westbrook back and find themselves in an enviable position – a bench with loads of talent and potential who are battle-hardened. Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Steven Adams and Perry Jones III have all been given the chance to experience a great deal of regular season NBA action. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches for Scott Brooks.
Jones has had to overcome the disappointment that went with being overlooked in the draft. He has had to adjust to not being the focal point or star player on a team (as he was at Baylor) and now he has to focus on each task handed to him every single night. He may play huge minutes one night and get minimal burn the next – but he has to stay ready.
The Oklahoma City Thunder with 40 odd wins already under their belt and holding down the number 1 seed in the West would have to be looking for a return to the NBA Finals. They are going to need to get through the next six weeks without Kendrick Perkins though and while Steve Adams is likely to start most if not all of those games. there are some minutes that need to be filled and Jones might just be that guy.
A better than average defender, with size and strength who could allow the Thunder to play “small ball” – interesting.
Ironic that the very issues that saw the Thunder lose to the Miami Heat two seasons ago, might just be their strength and point of difference this time around – and that largely falls on the very broad shoulders of Perry Jones III.