This piece is about Jemerrio Jones, a 6’6″ Guard/Forward from Memphis, whose best statistical comparisons are Andre Roberson, Kawhi Leonard, Larry Johnson and Draymond Green.
If you’ve heard of Jemerrio Jones, you’re probably either from Memphis, a New Mexico State fan, a Hill College graduate or you’ve been reading this blog. I myself first became acquainted with Jones when doing some research attempting to guess who the next Delon Wright or Gary Payton II might be.
It wasn’t difficult to pick out the guy who as a Freshman ranked 2nd in offensive rebounds, 1st in defensive rebounds, 1st in total rebounds, 7th in assists, 13th in blocks and 39th in steals and a 2.6-to-one Assist-to-Turnover rate. That’s in the entire NJCAA database for 2014-15 and includes some players you may have heard of like Chris Boucher or Jo Acuil, who also happen to be pretty good at college basketball.
Also, Jones was only a Freshman. That peaked my interest, enough to seek out a couple of Hill College games on the internet. He looked good there too, albeit not as athletic as I was expecting. Which from looking at the statistics was the second coming of Larry Johnson or Shawn Marion.
Jemerrio Jones is not that. Still, having seen him play, I was more surprised that major colleges weren’t recruiting him than when he started putting up numbers this year. 12 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists and a block in 26 minutes versus Cal State Bakersfield.
17 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks in 25 minutes versus UTEP. 6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks in 19 minutes versus Arizona State. 15 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal and 1 block in 28 minutes versus Air Force. Those kind of boxscores. And yes, NMSU won all of these games., as they have most every game since Jones has become a feature in the rotation.
There’s a loose decision in the middle of these highlights, a behind the back pass in traffic that somehow ends up back in Jones’ hands for a basket. That kind of thing does happen a tad too often if you watch Jemerrio Jones. Yet, even then, the overall package of size, vision (on definite display here), skill, rebounding, and effort are more than a little impressive.
To get some sense, let’s start with the per game numbers of Jemerrio Jones in both JuCo and the NCAA.
Seeing numbers like that, you can start to get a sense as to why many of Jones’ best comparables, at least according to statistics, are outliers like Andre Roberson, Draymond Green, and Kawhi Leonard. Which makes Jones somewhat hard to place as a prospect, since he’s smaller than all three, less athletic and doesn’t have a jumper or an elite handle, two attributes that might make up for these shortcomings.
To get a sense of what a big problem this can be, just think about Justise Winslow, and how he’s struggled to adjust to the league on offense. (Bruce Brown, who I love as a defender, probably also falls into this camp. A smaller Justise Winslow, who has a questionable offensive future at the NBA level because of his total inability to shoot off-the-dribble. Jones isn’t totally unable to shoot off the bounce like these players, at least as we get closer to the basket, but as a 6’6″ guy who scores almost exclusively from 0-8 feet right now, there’s some serious scoring question marks moving forward.)
Jemerrio Jones By The Numbers
We’ll look at Jones in comparison with the aforementioned luminaries more a little later. However, the purpose of this piece is not just to look at Jemerrio Jones. Nor is it just to show you how awesome Jemerrio Jones has been. It’s also to use Jemerrio Jones as a bridge to move from talking about Guards and Wings to the Bigs who might be in the draft. Luckily I can do both pretty easily by comparing Jones not only to this year’s CF/PF/C prospects, but also by comparing him to a bunch of College Power Forwards and Centers in the past. (Well, mostly Power Fowards and Centers.)
Here’s the staggering thing about Jones. Statistically, the guys that Jones compares best to are motly Top 5 NBA draft picks, or guys, like Draymond Green, that should have been top 5 picks. Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Thomas Robinson, and Ethan Happ are a few other examples. But unlike them, Jemerrio Jones is 6’5″ or 6’6″.
Just take a look for yourself. Here’s the master table I’ll be using to compare these players. (Pace Adjusted numbers are used whenever possible.)
Please notice the presence of 2016 1st Round Draft Pick Pascal Siakam on this table. He also went to New Mexico State. He might not be very good right now. Who knows? He may never be. Though that’s not the important thing. The important thing is to note that even at 6’10”, he’s basically equal to or worse than Jemerrio Jones at basically everything.
That includes rebounding. Again, Jones is a Wing prospect. So even though it might be easy to chalk up all of Jones results to his level of competition, it’s also probably not the case.
The most amazing thing is that Jones isn’t that athletic. Very good flexibility. Decent enough leaping, quickness and speed. But he doesn’t really pop on tape. Yet, somehow he’s just always around the ball, always making plays. Just timing, sense of space, anticipation, hand-eye coordination, a sick-sense of tracking the basketball.
The types of intelligence that also translate occasionally into offense, specifically in terms of cutting, passing, timing on drives. You can see an example or two in this highlight package versus UC-Irvine. A game where Jones came down with 18 rebounds. (Not featured, but certainly impressive.)
Now let’s take a closer look at the numbers.
Jemerrio Jones: Rebounding, Passing and Defense
Offense Rebounds Per 40
1) So we don’t know how old Jemerrio Jones is. And of course some of the players who declared early for the draft might have put up seasons like this if they stayed in college. There might even be some other NBA Wing type prospects who put up 5+ Offensive Rebounds per 40 over significant minutes. However, I couldn’t find them. It was hard enough to find non-Centers to do it.
2) Paul Millsap became famous for leading the NCAA in rebounding three straight years. Then because he was one the first major success stories of Draft Analytics. Analytical Formulas picked Millsap out because the things he was good at (rebounding, stocks) tended to translate.
In this case we can be pretty sure the college rebounding of Jemerrio Jones is not going to correlate very well to his rebounding in the pros. The simplest reasons, he’s not not especially big and he’ll be playing farther away from the basket. But that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that intangible abilities that allow Jones to rebound like this at a size disadvantage are likely going to play in other basketball situations as well.
3) Further down, we can see all sorts of players. This year’s combo forwards in Josh Jackson, Jonathan Isaac, Jayson Tatum and Miles Bridges. This year’s Centers and Bigs in Robert Williams, Zach Collins.
4) I’ll talk more about these players in late pieces. Right now, I just want to point out that Lauri Markkanen is basically the anti Jemerrio Jones. He’s good at everything Jones is bad at, and bad at everything Jones is good at. Which would be fine, except Jones is pretty good at everything except shooting.
As regards this table, when I’ve seen him, Markkanen’s been legitimately terrible at tracking rebounds in the air. Basically almost all of his boards come because he happens to be tall and occasionally close to the basket. That’s not a good sign for a Big, especially a big like Markkanen.
5) Let’s take Kevin Love for an example. He’s not much of a defender, but he does at least recoup some of that deficit by being excellent on the boards. You can almost write that off for Markkanen off the bat. Especially in terms of rebounding in traffic.
Then, there’s the fact that we’re considering Markkanen at Center, the most important defensive position on the table, despite the fact that he can’t rebound, offers zero rim protection and probably can’t guard his position or switch effectively vs. NBA level perimeter players.
Which is to say, if you’re considering playing Markkanen at Center, you might try to imagine playing Carmelo Anthony at the position. Don’t let the fact that Markkanen is 7’0″ tall and Anthony is 6’8″ confuse you. Both are providing zero pushback on defense at the Center position, and of the two, Anthony is likely the better rebounder and the athlete better suited to switch onto smaller players.
The fact that basically no one considers playing Anthony at Center a good idea should probably indicate a little of how excited a team should be playing Markkanen there. Almost regardless of the potential offensive outcome. (And yes, I agree, even if Markkanen never develops into more than a standstill shooter who can also shoot off of screening actions, the offensive outcome could be quite good. Kid can shoot.)
Defensive Rebounds Per 40
1) Again, some random 6’5″ or 6’6″ guy who came from Junior College should not be out-rebounding all the supposed studs of the class. Not unless, Jemerrio Jones is perhaps much better than people give them credit for. Or many of these players are a little overrated as rebounders (and perhaps overall). Or both.
2) That being said, Bonzie Colson and Ethan Happ are perhaps underrated players. They may be stuck in between positions, but both try really hard. Never underestimate effort. Ethan Happ is also really smart. And though there’s risk involved with Happ, it’s difficult to find too many Bigs with his kind of upside. He’s missing a jumper, but at a certain point, that’s a risk worth taking.
3) As for pure PF/C, Zach Collins and Robert Williams are more than solid overall, especially considering that Williams sometimes plays out of position at Small Forward and chases blocks a little too often. It’s only rarely talked about, but Justin Patton’s defensive rebounding leaves something to be desired. Especially considering that most of the teams he’s played against lack size of any kind. He won’t be the only footer in the NBA.
Total Rebounds per 40
1) Most everything to be said about Jemerrio Jones and rebounding has been said. Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Thomas Robinson and Michael Beasley all went top 5 in large part because of their rebounding. Even the guys that failed have had legitimate NBA careers. Again, Jones has a major size disadvantage on them, but to be up there at 6’5″ or 6’6″, we’re talking about a guy who plays with energy and has an innate understanding of the game.
2) It might be interesting for you to pay attention to Dedric Lawson and Draymond Green. Lawson as as a combo-Forward who faces size/athleticism/translation questions is in some non-superficial ways very similar to Draymond Green. Green was obviously the better prospect, but Green has also become a Top 5 or Top 10 player. Being a lesser prospect than Draymond Green is to be expected.
Assists Per 40
1) It’s not just rebounding that make Jones somewhat unique as a prospect. After all, we’ve seen Anthony Roberson. He rebounded pretty well as a 6’7″ guy in college. (Although he did play much more of a true PF role.) Kawhi Leonard rebounded tremendously as well. Quentin Richardson was one of the all-time great 6’6″ low post players before he decided to become strictly a three-point shooter.
But only guys that Jones doesn’t remotely compare to as a player put up these types of rebounding and assist numbers and passing numbers in the same season. We’re talking about Draymond Green, Lamar Odom, and Ben Simmons. That’s at least a little strange.
2) The problem for Jones is that his handle is quite ordinary and his decision making is sometimes questionable. Not bad overall, just sometimes questionable. Kind of like watching Stephen Jackson or Matt Barnes, where a great pass can be followed by a play like this one:
Okay, maybe not that bad, or that random. But nevertheless, moments that occasionally make you scratch your head.
3) Yet even in the highlights we can see Jones has legitimately good timing and legitimately good vision.
These may seem like simple plays, but there they’re plays many players simply don’t see and don’t make. Even against a team like Nicholls State.
1) Yet another indicator suggesting Jemerrio Jones knows how to play.
Harmonic Stocks X 2
1) To calculate this metric I took the harmonic mean of steals and blocks and multiplied by two. Multiplying by two, since it allows the number to resemble a value typical of stocks.
It’s a way to keep blocks from heavily biasing the block component of the calculation. Though even this number probably underweights the value of steals. Especially for players who don’t project at Center.
2) Jones is far more average here than in rebounds, at least in college. Though the worst thing we can say about him is that he projects as a below average defensive Big Man. For a wing, the stocks number is plenty good. As has Jones’ defense been when I’ve seen them. Much of the rest of his team has pretty big question marks on that side of the ball.
Jemerrio Jones and Shooting the Basketball
1) In terms of Jemerrio Jones draft profile, this is his downfall. He can’t shoot from distance. In addition, he also doesn’t make free throws.
2) However, there is an off-beat comparison that does allow some hope for the offensive game of Jemerrio Jones moving forward. Paul Millsap, who luckily enough places right next to Jones on this table. You’ll notice that Kawhi was also pretty bad at shooting, but I don’t like him as a comparison point for several reasons.
Firstly, getting better at shooting overnight is rare. It’s not to be expected. Even guys who show advancement in college, like DeMarre Carroll or Matt Barnes, often take years to consolidate those gains.
Secondly, Kawhi Leonard’s game, which was more versatile offensively than that of Jones, isn’t really a good jumping-off point.
3) Why Paul Millsap? Well, Paul Millsap happened to have the exact same scoring game as Jones coming into the league. Basically a mirror image. Almost everything happened in the paint. Usually 0-10 feet. Often relying on weird angles, flip shots to find enough space to get a shot off. And he was equally great at cutting in tight spaces and finding openings to receive the ball.
Here’s the shooting numbers for Millsap his first four years in the league. (Thank you Basketball-Reference.com)
It wasn’t until Year Four that Millsap shot less than 75% of his shots from 0-10 feet. That’s an astounding number, especially considering he shot upwards of 60% of them at the rim.4) Now here’s some college highlights of Paul Millsap.
Now the player this most resembles is Ethan Happ. Absolutely everything within three feet. And just as easy a time as Happ has, whenever he doesn’t have to play against extreme size. But the point still stands, highly intuitive players, with both great success and great effort at the college level, are perhaps not bad bets to eventually improve, given coaching a time. (Millsap was lucky enough to have both in Utah under Jerry Sloan.)
5) Paul Millsap is a pretty good athletic comparison for Jones. It terms of running and jumping. Though it should be noted that Millsap is very noticeably larger at 6’7″ and about 250 lbs. Plus we know that Millsap has a 7′ 1.5″ wingspan whereas we can only make a guess as to the wingspan of Jones.
6) If you want a guy around Jones’ size who might be a decent comparison in terms of athleticism, perhaps somebody along the lines of P.J. Tucker. (A comparison I’ll dive a little deeper into near the end of the piece.)
7) Now back to Millsap. At around 44 seconds in these rookie year Jazz highlights, you get a set for the kind of off balance contorted jump shot in close I am talking about.
Anyone who has watched Jones play has seen a decent amount of these. And there are probably several examples in the highlights.
7) Why do I bring these shots up? I believe they speak to hand-eye coordination, as do rebounds, steals and the timing to block shots. I hypothesized last summer that those with better hand-eye coordination might also have better ability to create new neuro-kinetic pathways in their brain which might allow one to become proficient at new tasks.
In this case, we can consider shooting a jump shot from distance such a task. It’s impossible to prove (at least I can’t do it) but I’d be willing to bet that such coordination, accompanied also by effort and will to improve, was integral to Millsap’s improvement.
Here we see Millsap’s best seasons from the Long Two-Point Area, an area of the floor from which he has become very proficient. Indeed not only often shooting over 20% of his shots from this range, but shooting well over 40%. There’s even been a modicum of three-point success thrown in.
8) Now here are the percentages of Jemerrio Jones. (Thanks to hoop-math.com.)
55% at the rim. 35% from mid-range and I’d wager the vast majority of those mid-range shots are in the 3-10 foot range. Still, you can see he shows reasonable touch on such shots. And unlike many players, these are often not floaters or flips but actual jumpers. It’s not a great percentage, but it also tends to be an area of the court where shots are more heavily contested.
9) I don’t know if Jones can improve. I certainly don’t know about the effort he puts into improving his game off the court. But I will place a reasonable sized bet that his hand-eye coordination is pretty good.
It might not be a lot to go on. But it’s also not nothing.
Jemerrio Jones Compared To A More Fitting Group Of Players
I didn’t include Quentin Richardson or Lamar Odom. I just didn’t think to do so until after I made the table, though Freshman Year Quentin Richardson is one of the closest comparables to how Jones plays on offense. And yes, all the same caveats apply about Jones being older, smaller and slightly less athletic than most of these guys. I just want to compare these players college production levels to show that Jemerrio Jones should be on the radar. Not necessarily for the 2017 Draft, which for a variety of reasons he almost certainly shouldn’t enter, but heading into 2018.
1) Notice I’ve highlighted numbers where Jones is statistically similar to other players. Sometimes that’s good as with rebounding (by which this table is sorted), defense, Assists, Assist-to-Turnover Ratio. Here he compares to any number of very strong NBA players, and sometimes even outshines them.
However, sometimes the comparisons are bad. Specifically, I’m talking about shooting from distance and from the Free-Throw Stripe, where Gerald Wallace, Anthony Roberson, Matt Barnes and DeMarre Carroll are not the guys on this list to whom you want to be compared.
2) Now let’s look at the same table by ranking.
This is not necessarily better than the other table, but it is simpler. Easier to notice where a player is better or worse.
There are corresponding highlights to help out. I’ve marked most of the the seasons where a players comes in Top 6 among this grouping. And especially marked those where a player is number one.
Notice how much green there is for Draymond Green. It’s pretty impressive for a player to be compared to a group of players of this caliber and still score in the upper echelon in every area, at least at some point in his career.
Conclusions about Jemerrio Jones
Jemerrio Jones fits into a category of player I tend to like more than most: High energy, non-shooters who really know how to play the game. Indeed, several of these players have recently gone onto reasonably successful careers.
The best among them are guys like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder. And there are others as well. Matt Barnes. DeMarre Carroll. Though perhaps the best example with respect to Jemerrio Jones would be a guy like P.J. Tucker. (Honestly, I would’ve got to this comparison sooner but I had a total brainfart when writing the piece and making the tables.)
Here’s a clip from draft night to give you some idea of the similarity. Tucker may have been a little bit bigger than Jones, but he was the same type of player in college. 6’5″-6’6″ Guard/Forward whose scoring game took place almost entirely in the paint. Lots of energy. Really knew how to play. Great rebounder for his size.
Statistically, it’s not hard to tell that the players might be similar. Especially when considering the shot clock (now 30 seconds, down from 35 when Tucker played) and that Tucker played better competition on the whole.
To get a sense of what Tucker became, let’s look at his best NBA seasons:
We see a player who, despite developing a competent corner 3-Pt shot (39% from three in his best season, 35% overall) doesn’t bring a lot of value on offense. What he does do is try hard and defend.
If Jemerrio Jones becomes that guy, you’re happy. Very happy.
P.J. Tucker definitely represents an excellent outcome for a player like Jones. However, perhaps somewhere below the ceiling of how good a guy like this might become. It’s not likely, but it’s also not impossible to imagine a player like Jones, who has more natural vision than Tucker, having more of his passing translate from college to the pros. On top of that, shooting is always a little unpredictable.
Jones becoming as good as Tucker would be great. But it’s not beyond question, with enough work, that he could become a better overall player. Perhaps even as good on offense as a guy like Bruce Bowen, a career 28% Three-Point Shooter in college who became a career 39% Three-Point shooter in the NBA. What you would have then is, in his best seasons, is a likely +3 or +4 player.
Still, an NBA team would be a lot more confident in a potential pick if Jones stayed in college another year and began to turn some of that touch around the rim into a modicum of range. A 12-18 foot jumper would be a good start. Signs of a three-pointer even better. Regardless, I’d propose that guys like Jemerrio Jones are the kinds of players for which Two-Way Contracts were made.
I’ll try to examine the concept in a future piece, but I think Two-Way Contracts are potentially much better for players than they are being made out to be. However, they aren’t necessarily very good for agents.
- All stats thanks to DraftExpress, Basketball-Reference.com, Sports-Reference.com and Hoop-Math.
- Thanks to NMSU fan, Jeff Balding, for all the Jemerrio Jones highlights on Youtube.