If you had to name the most boom-or-bust prospect in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Kentucky's Terrence Jones might fit the bill. Jones isn't the classic John Calipari lottery pick. First off, he's not a point guard like Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans or John Wall. Nor is he a big man. He's a classic forward tweener: quick enough to work outside but strong and athletic enough to mix it up in the paint. Frankly, that's not Coach Cal's M.O. But when you lose five players -- four of them freshman -- to the 2010 NBA Draft, you make do.
And Jones is indeed a fine player, one of the top freshmen in the nation. He's the focal point of Kentucky's offense, so NBA fans will get to see plenty of his action against Princeton on Thursday. Jones might be more of a pro-style wing than any other top forward prospect, though that could very well appear to be true due to Calipari's pro offense versus the more college-style systems Harrison Barnes and Derrick Williams play in. In the NBA, high-usage wings handle the ball quite a bit in the offense. Jones is suited for just that.
He creates his own shot well; according to Kenpom.com, Jones takes 28 percent of Kentucky's shots when on the court, more than even trigger-happy guard Brandon Knight. Jones is OK at getting to the line -- he won't be a Carmelo Anthony/LeBron James style foul-drawer, certainly, but he'll get to the stripe -- and a rather inefficient scorer in total. It's hard to see how Jones could ever become a really efficient scorer at the NBA level -- you can see it in Barnes and Williams, but not Jones. His three-point shot is suspect (though he started the year very well) and despite being Kentucky's best paint option, he relies on his mid-range jumper quite a bit. If that continues, it'll depress his field goal percentage and free throw rate, hurting his value.
But scorers of his size are still valuable in general, and Jones has got a lot of physical potential waiting to be tapped. If his rebounding translates (I'm skeptical), he becomes a legitimate power forward option. If his jumper and shot selection develop, we could have the next Marvin Williams (the good Marvin Williams) on our hands. Either route will take work, and nothing is a sure thing. But it'll be exciting to see the journey nonetheless.
WHO: Terrence Jones, forward, Kentucky. 6'8, 200 pounds. Off-the-dribble scorer/rebounder.
NBA COMPARISON: Caron Butler without the straw fetish.
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