Expectations: James Jones

I pride myself on knowing a fair amount about the team and being able to forecast with reasonable accuracy the general drift of players and the franchise.  But I've got to admit I just haven't seen enough of James Jones to be able to make a lot of definitive statements.  I would bet that most Blazer fans are in the same boat.  Of course that isn't going to keep us from trying...

Often in astronomy you can discover the properties of a subject you can't observe directly by watching its interactions with the local environment.  Observing the way Jones has moved through this off-season one might make a couple of reasonable conclusions:

--The Blazers were very happy to get him because, among other things, they got him essentially for free...as a throw-in to the huge New York proceedings.  As such there's no possible way he could truly disappoint.  

--The reason they got him was his outside shooting which has been marvelous his whole career.  Having Jones available makes our inside push on offense more practical.

--He's essentially an insurance policy in case Martell isn't ready, flips out, or gets traded.  He's also another breathing body at small forward.  If this were baseball you'd say Jones was brought to the team to provide some bullpen support and maybe even eat some innings as a starter if nobody better steps up.

--Part of his allure is the idea that Phoenix, being veteran-laden and gunning for rings right now, might have let him go simply because he didn't fit their timetable or positional needs.  Some Portland folks probably have visions in their heads of stealing a guy who might end up a long-term starter and gunner.  I think it's too soon to speculate how the slower, more predictable Portland offense might benefit or hurt Jones but either way I don't see much chance of us having truly stolen the guy.  The Suns were actually looking to cut some salary this summer in a desperate bid for Kevin Garnett.  Had Jones really been a sleeper they would have latched onto him tightly.

--Though Jones' three-point percentage has been sterling his overall field goal percentage has been pathetic with a capital "P".  And a capital "ATHETIC".  He didn't make 37% last year.  Granted part of that is because half his shots are threes (and 37% is good from that distance) but that doesn't speak well of his versatility. If you can't make hay with Steve Nash feeding you I worry a little bit about you.  The guys who do best in Nate's offenses, even going back to Seattle, are the guys who are more multi-faceted.  Yes there will be weak-side, stand-still jumpers but you also have to be able to put it on the floor and find the rim (or somebody open) in case of a close-out.  I believe a large part of the reason Ime Udoka was let go was his inability to do exactly that despite his great shooting when planted.  Also Nate hates wasted possessions, which include guys getting stuck with shots they're unable to hit.

--Jones' foul shooting is sterling and he'll probably be taking the technicals if he's on the floor without Jarrett Jack.

--When he was traded to us rumors started circulating that he was good on defense.  I will wait to be convinced of that.  Again an excellent distance shooter who can also defend and comes cheap seems like a guy the Suns would want to keep.

Putting all that together my expectations of James Jones this year are simple:

  1.  Hit every open three pointer you get to stretch the offense and keep defenders from packing the paint en masse.
  2.  Provide a base measuring bar for guys like Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster.  "If you're better than this guy you can play.  If not he's fine for us."
  3.  Start if necessary but basically be a shooting role player comfortable with six-minute stretches.
  4.  Fit in.  Don't disrupt on or off the court.
20 minutes and 10 points a game from Jones would be very good I'd think, although I tend to think that the less he plays the better it might be for the team, not because he's a bad option but because it would mean somebody else was really stepping it up.  Whether he plays or not it'll be hard to get really disillusioned over his performance.  In poker they call that a "free roll".  Let's hope he takes advantage of it.

Feel free to add anything you want if you're more knowledgeable than I.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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