The Warriors selected Vanderbilt center Damian Jones with the No. 30 pick in the 2016 NBA draft.
With center Festus Ezeli expected to head elsewhere in free agency, the Warriors replace one Vanderbilt alum with another. Jones garnered first-team All-SEC honors in each of his final two college seasons and trails only Festus Ezeli on Vanderbilt’s alltime blocks leaderboard. As a junior, he averaged 13.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Strengths: Jones is an athletic big man who can contribute on both ends of the floor. He knows how to work his way to the rim from either post and can finish over longer interior defenders. He tries to throw the ball through the hardwood on most of his dunks, making defenders regret their last-ditch recovery efforts once he rises to rim-level. His improving mid-range jumper will serve him much better in the pros than it did at Vanderbilt, where it felt like settling even after he honed it into a consistent weapon late in his career. He’s a smart passer with the mobility, feel and feet to be a weapon on pick-and-rolls.
Weaknesses: Jones can go long stretches without demanding the ball inside, and the vicious authority he often punctuates dunks with doesn’t show up often enough when a defender is nearby. His fouls come in bunches, especially against superior competition. He fouled out seven times last season, six in conference games and one in a loss to Purdue. He also failed to change his playing style based on the game situation even after it became a public talking point. He never shot better than 60% on his free throws, and opponents frustrated him with handsy defense once they figured out he couldn’t make them pay from the line.
Grade: B+. Jones has been compared to Ezeli, another Vanderbilt guy, and as the latter approaches restricted free agency, the Warriors find a guy who could be his replacement. He’s a very good athlete with shot-blocking ability and ideally will be able to anchor small lineups defensively. This is a nice pick for them. Meanwhile, Deyonta Davis, a long-term play in a similar position, slips out of the first round. — Jeremy Woo