New Orleans Pelicans forward Herb Jones may be a man of few words off the court, but his play speaks volumes on the court. The second-year forward from Alabama is once again proving why he is an invaluable piece to this team.
For instance, Monday night's game versus the Oklahoma City Thunder. A brief box-score check of 12 points and three rebounds may appear average, but a deeper dive proves something different.
The Thunder's rising star, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, entered the game 3rd in the NBA in scoring, shooting at a 50% clip from the field. Jones' defense of Alexander was outstanding. He made Shai work for every basket, and although he finished with 30 points, he only shot 2/9 and had four turnovers while being guarded by Herb. Jones finished the game with four steals and three blocks as well.
Coaches see it, peers see it, and so do his teammates. After the win, Zion called Herb "a special defender" and admired his game and what he brings to it on the defensive end. Jones has proven he brings that kind of tenacity every single game.
The numbers bear it out. Jones has recorded at least a block, or a steal in 14 of 16 games played this season. In Monday's game, he became just the 7th player in franchise history to record at least four steals and three blocks in a game. The effect of having Jones on the court is easily felt.
The opponent's offensive rating, assists, and effective field goal rating all go down when Herb is on the floor compared to when he isn't. The growth of Jones can be seen on the offensive end as well. Herb is averaging a career-high in points and field goal attempts as he is developing his offensive game.
The Pelicans are benefitting greatly from his willingness to take open shots. It at least keeps the defense honest and opens up not only driving but passing lanes for Zion Williamson to operate in. This has resulted in Jones being on the net plus side in 8 of the 10 different rotations he's taking the floor with this season.
Some compare Jones to Kawhi Leonard. Like Jones, Leonard came into the NBA quiet and under spoken, but was fiery on defense until he developed a lethal offensive game to match. While Herb may never be the offensive player Kawhi is, he doesn't need to be at this point in his career.
Simply being the player Kawhi is on the defensive end will garner the well-deserved respect of his peers and the success the team needs to have from him. Herb is constantly working on this day by day.
It probably should come as no surprise the improvement Herb has shown this season. Many coaches and players acknowledged that all Herb likes to do is work out in the gym.
During Media Day, forward Larry Nance Jr told reporters he once told Herb to go home after constantly seeing him in and around the gym. Jones may not have grasped the full work/life balance aspect of the NBA. For now, he is letting his game do the talking. Actions are speaking louder than words for Herb.
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