#28: Perry Jones III
Raise your hand if you had Perry Jones III of Baylor going to the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 28th pick in the 2012 draft.
Going into this years’ draft season, there was little chatter surrounding the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 28th draft pick. It was suspected Thunder executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti would trade or sell the pick to avoid having to pay a rookie guaranteed salary. With the Thunder having a wildly successful season culminating in an NBA Finals appearance, their biggest need appears to be another years’ seasoning. The core roster remains under contract for next season; the general thought is to make a tweak or two and try again next year.
Then the unexpected happened this week. Rumors broke that Oklahoma City was going to try to move up into the top three of the draft. Florida standout, Bradley Beal, was the speculated target. Unbelievably, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year, James Harden, was attached as the player to accomplish the feat. The furor was for naught, as the Washington Wizards ended up drafting Beal with their third overall pick.
Instead the Thunder took Jones, an athletic 6’11” forward with a 7’2” wingspan. The decision isn’t without risks. Obviously his size is fantastic; he can shoot threes and handle the ball, but Jones’ stock fell in the draft as concerns about his knee and toughness surfaced.
“Well, first let me start off by saying, I just wanted the opportunity to play in the NBA,” said Jones, following news of his pick. “Didn’t really matter what pick I got. Just wanted the chance to play for somebody.
“I’m more than happy to play for Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant, somebody I look at on film,” he added. “He’s my favorite player. So therefore, for me to be under his wing is going to be wonders for me.”
Jones may have ended up a much higher pick had he left Baylor after his freshman year. Jones expressed how he felt about falling so far in the first round.
“Definitely used it as motivation,” he said. “But once again, I just wanted the opportunity to play anywhere, no matter if I got picked next round, whichever team I’m going to.
“I’m just happy, because that’s the team that I actually like and enjoy watching,” said Jones. “I know those guys are going to help me as a player and as a person. They are going to teach me a lot. I’m just going to be under their wing. They can make me a better player. Those guys work hard.
“Durant is just amazing.”
Small forwards such as Jeff Taylor and Quincy Miller – thought to be on the Thunder’s radar if available at #28 – were passed over in favor of the 20-year-old Baylor product.
Jones averaged 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds in his sophomore season and shot field goals at an impressive .500 clip. He fits the Thunder DNA with his versatility and ability to defend multiple positions.
Immediate thoughts turned to Serge Ibaka, who is eligible for a contract extension this summer, following the Jones pick. Should the Thunder be unable to afford both Harden and Ibaka, not to mention Eric Maynor – all of whom will be eligible for rookie deal extensions – Jones may prove a suitable frontcourt option. Low risk, high reward perhaps.
“They are somebody I could see myself playing with,” Jones said. “They like to run the floor real well, and they are one of the best teams, and I know I can learn from them. What’s better than learning from one of the best teams? They were in the Finals. They have great players, great coach. This is just an opportunity for me to grow.”
The Thunder passed late on DeJuan Blair in the 2009 draft; it looks like they are not taking that kind of chance again.