This is the draft of the stars. The big names that teams, scouts, and fans have been waiting to hit the league for the last few years. Multiple prospects have franchise changing, #1 option on a title team potential. The guys teams tank for and fans spend years praying they get the chance to see wear their team colors one day. Before you get too excited, Kai Jones isn’t one of those prospects. But he might be the best Robin to a Batman in this draft and in my favorite guy outside the top ten right now that is guaranteed to be a success for whatever team drafts him.
In the clip below watch as he shows off everything a team is looking for at the 4 spot in today’s league. Contesting shots at the rim, putting the ball on the court and then finishing through contact, catching the oop, blocking the shot, and then running the floor to dribble once and finish a fast break dunk to take over a stretch in their first game of the season. Just a little bit of all the things you like to see from a guy who knows he isn’t going to be the lead guy on offense.
Three Point Shooting
The only part of his game that Jones didn’t showcase in that dominant stretch is his ability to knock down the three point shot; something nearly every role player is required to have these days. Luckily for Jones it’s a talent that he possesses as I showcased in the clip below. The first shot you see Jones set the screen to initiate the switch and immediately rise up for the basket with confidence over the smaller player; something Jones will see a lot with his 6’11 height. I followed that with a couple of his catch and shoot corner three attempts I liked while watching the film and finished up with an above the break, face up dagger after jab stepping his defender into a false sense of security. He has all of the tools to be a stretch big in this league in the same way a Daniel Theis or John Collins from around the entire perimeter instead of just the corners. Wherever he is behind the line he’s a threat to shoot and has the confidence in himself to pull on anyone.
Let’s be realistic though; bigs who can stretch the floor aren’t the rarity they were even five years ago. So while having such a nice potential stroke in the NBA does make Jones’s draft stock rise it isn’t enough itself. That’s why the love Jones has for the game of basketball and the work ethic Texas raves about shining through in his game on the court makes such a big difference. Whether it’s crashing the offensive boards, cutting to the basket with purpose, or running the floor and filling the lanes correctly you can always count on Jones to be actively putting him in a position to help the team win. Effort will never be a problem for him.
What will be a problem for him when he gets into the league though is his size when he runs into the bigs of the world. Not a true center but at 6’11 I expect him to see the floor at center as well as power forward and until he adds some muscle to his 220 frame he’s going to get bullied like he has a few times in college. He also has a habit of being almost too active on defense which leaves him prone to cuts or sometimes you can see him thinking and ending up being a step too slow because of it.
I expect these things to improve when he gets to the pros (though how much will depend on where he goes which will play a lot into his success. But isn’t that the story with 85% of the players drafted?) and just from playing more and getting more reps under his belt. He isn’t at an Evan Mobley level on defense when it comes to prospects this year though he is effective at protecting the rim and contesting shots and I think will end up being at least a net neutral defender if not a plus one. He knows where he needs to be and what he needs to do; his body just has to grow into where he can cooperate.
He still has plenty to offer teams from the get go though. Other than his shooting he’s not an elite ball handler or passer but he isn’t below average in either area. He’s able to both grab the rebound and lead a break or put the ball on the ground from the triple threat outside the three point line and dish when the help comes on his drive which forces defenses to account for him. In the clips below he shows off his ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket as well as running the break to go with the vision of the passes at the end. When Jones is involved in the game good things happen for his team and whatever team drafts him is going to get who I might think is the steal of the draft outside the big five.
Overall, while Kai Jones isn’t an elite, build your offense around talent like a lot of the high end talent in this draft he has the skills, passion, and skills to take the training he receives and apply it to making improvements in his game. Someone who no matter the team that drafts him will be a better player in 4 years than they are now and eventually is going to be a quality player on a contending team at the least in my opinion. Teams are going to be looking for 6’11 rim runners who can shoot threes and have a motor that doesn’t quit and that’s exactly what Kai Jones offers. We will look at him the way we look at OG Anunoby and I can’t wait to see where he falls in the first round.