Going into the 2012 NBA draft, the Houston Rockets had three first-round picks: 12th, 16th and 18th. The Rockets ended up selecting Jeremy Lamb (who was dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the James Harden trade), Royce White (who never played a game for Houston) and Terrence Jones.
Jones has blossomed into a very good young player, starting for the Rockets since the middle of November. I know that we’re all geniuses in retrospect and that hindsight is historically 20/20, but with Jones outperforming so many of the players drafted before him, one thing is clear: the Rockets benefitted from where NBA draft “experts” placed Jones in their mock drafts.
The NBA is filled with intelligent minds who are extremely good at projecting players to the next level. That being said, there’s no way that they aren’t swayed by public opinion in regards to prospects, and to some extent that’s justified because the fans are the ones paying to come to the games.
A lot of what guys like Chad Ford do is based on what they hear from people on the inside, so the blame should fall more so on the shoulders of the executives than the writers or insiders. Either way, mistakes were made early and often when it comes to projecting and drafting in 2012.
Here’s what we knew about Jones heading into the 2012 NBA draft: like so few players seem to be doing, Jones stuck around for his second college season despite being projected as a top-five pick after his freshman campaign. As a sophomore at Kentucky, he was joined by Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, all of whom were also taken in the first round of the 2012 draft. The Wildcats won a national championship.
Jones’ numbers went down in his second season at Kentucky, but his minutes also declined and his field goal percentage improved drastically. T-Jones was the glue guy for that John Calipari team, supplying offense when it was needed, constant defense, occasional ball handling and effective rebounding.
At 6-foot-9 with a muscular build, Jones’ body was very close to being NBA-ready, which was something that couldn’t be said about so many one-and-done guys from 2012. So, after the ‘Cats won the title and almost the entire team declared for the draft, how was it that Jones’ teammate, Kidd-Gilchrist, was rated so far ahead of him?
MKG couldn’t shoot a lick in college (still can’t) and his defense and intangibles were his most attractive qualities heading into the draft. Scouts loved his ability to defend and his motor, while a few big shots in the NCAA tournament definitely boosted his stock to another level. I love MKG as a player and there’s no doubt he was a big part of Kentucky’s championship season, but how in the world could he have been a better prospect than Jones?
Yes, Kidd-Gilchrist was a year younger than Jones, and yes, he had more of the alpha-dog quality, but how many times have we seen franchises reach for interior players like Jones, who is a natural four? Too many (cue up the Robert Swift video). So, why is it that in this particular draft a young, multi-talented, adequately-sized four was projected to be taken more than 10 picks after a three who had no jumper, below-average guard skills and a bunch of intangibles?
It really doesn’t make any sense. Luckily for Houston, Jones is now the Rockets’ starting power forward and a key piece to their future, averaging 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting 54 percent from the floor during the regular season. Meanwhile, MKG is a starter at the Bobcats’ weakest position, averaging 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 11 percent from distance (that wasn’t a typo).
As a Rockets fan, I’m not complaining, but things like these just make me wonder about the guys sitting in the press boxes.