It'd be crazy to suggest the reigning SEC Player of the Year didn't have many NBA prospects. But then again, pro basketball franchises prefer younger and younger players who more and more are viewed as developmental projects.
Not Herbert Jones, though. Not the New Orleans Pelicans, either.
He was drafted with the 35th overall pick and later signed to the largest contract in league history for a second-round selection. And he's 24 years old as of October 6. To add perspective, Josh Primo was drafted 12th overall by the San Antonio Spurs and won't be 19 until December.
Some difference, huh. In fact, que the gasp.
At Alabama, Jones was a four-year standout while many eventual pros in his position, subsequently drafted higher and lower, were much closer in age to Primo.
In fact, 25 of the 34 picks before him are no more than 20 years old and played no more than one season of college basketball or in an international league.
Most of them aren't rookie starters in the first week of the season, however, like the also-reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Which is why he's in the lineup at tipoff, because offensively there are far more advanced talents who are younger and, in some cases, cheaper.
But that's not all there is to it, and those who've seen him spill blood on the Coleman Coliseum floor and guide in free-throws with one hand on the ball while the other limp and fractured will readily attest.
By most metrics, the Pelicans had among the worst defensive rosters in previous seasons. It ranked 24th in points allowed and 23rd in defensive efficiency last season, and neither stat ranks in the top half of the league in 2021-22.
It's not hard to spot his value.
In three consecutive starts, the 24-year-old averages 2.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 30 minutes on the floor. On just 11 field goal attempts, it's most indicative of his specific tasks as a defender.
And that stat line will improve with experience, but how much traces back to the debate recently born involving draft prospects and trading the long game for the short game and inversely.
New Orleans is in phase one or two or whatever it claims of a rebuilding effort, meaning the roster is stocked with younger, relatively inexpensive players who are supplemented both by Jones and somewhat shrewd veteran signings on the cheap.
And while Pelicans executives publicly claim the team to be, well, not intentionally losing for the sake of an increased likelihood for higher future draft picks, Jones is both a wait-and-see—as are all rookies—and a valuable commodity due to injuries.
If nothing else, though, he's directly-if-passively stirring the pot once thought to be the ideal formula of selecting players in the NBA Draft: When all else is equal take the younger guy.
That is, if there's not an immediate contributor who's a 6'6, long-armed and proven option still waiting in the second round because he's 'old.'
It'd be crazy to suggest the reigning SEC Player of the Year didn't have many NBA prospects. But then again, pro basketball franchises prefer younger and younger players who more and more are viewed as developmental projects. Subscribe for full article
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