Jalen Jones Continues To Build On Impressive Rookie Campaign
After graduating from Texas A&M following an NCAA Tournament run in which he scored more than 12 points per game, Jalen Jones caught the eye of NBA teams with his size, length and athleticism, as well as his inside-out ability and versatility that has become so highly prized at the professional level.
Despite workouts with multiple teams around the league including, but not limited to, the Utah Jazz and the Toronto Raptors, Jones wound up going undrafted. Just days after the draft however, he signed with the Raptors and played with them throughout the Summer League.
While he didn’t stick in Toronto, Jones was signed to the Boston Celtics in September and after being waived following training camp, headed to the team’s NBA D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
His undrafted status certainly served as a surprise to some, but right out of the gate Jones went about proving that he had the talent to play at the next level and paired with fellow rookie Abdel Nader had the perfect situation in which he could thrive.
As the D-League season winds to an end, the fit in Maine has proven to be a beneficial one for both the team and Jones, who has elevated his game far beyond what most would have anticipated out of his rookie campaign.
Exploding out of the gate by dropping 21.2 points per game in November, Jones has continued to make his presence felt on the offensive end as the Red Claws have maintained a spot in the upper echelon of teams in the Eastern Conference this season.
In each month since December, Jones has seen both his shooting percentage and three-point field goal percentage increase, highlighted by his blistering 47.5% clip on 40 attempts from downtown throughout the month of March.
His shot falling from three-point range is impressive without any context, but considering that one of the biggest knocks against him on his draft profile was his inconsistency from deep, it serves as a testament to the development that he’s made over the course of the last year.
After shooting 31.3% from three-point land during his college career, Jones is hitting 35.7% of those attempts this year with the Red Claws. While he’s certainly aided by the quicker tempo in which D-League basketball is played compared to college, it’s impressive that he’s been able to improve despite the enhanced competition.
Not only is his three-ball improving, but his jump shot as a whole has been on the upswing since his days with the Aggies. After shooting just 71 jump shots as a senior and knocking down 28.1% of them, Jones has showed an increased willingness to pull up and trust himself outside of the paint. His confidence has paid off too, as he’s now hitting 35.7% of his jumpers on nearly 375 attempts.
His ability to knock down threes and jump shots has been a welcomed addition to the Red Claws offense that scores nearly 106 points per game. To this point in the season, Jones trails only his rookie counterpart Nader for the team lead in points per game, and even that is only by a hair (0.1 fewer points per game despite one fewer shot per game).
Beyond his impact on the offensive end, Jones has managed to play a key role both on the glass and on the defensive end. Currently the team’s leading rebounder amongst players that have appeared in at least 10 games, Jones is a nightly double-double threat and has accomplished that feat in nearly half of the games he’s appeared in this year.
Defensively Jones was considered to have the perfect size and length to defend on the perimeter, but was often caught out of position and wouldn’t always display the optimal level of effort.
With the help of head coach Scott Morrison and assistant coaches (and former college wings themselves) Dan Wendt and John Auslander, Jones has picked up the slack on that end and has been a key factor in the Red Claws third rated defense in terms of opponents’ points per game.
After allowing his collegiate competitors to connect on 37.6% of the three-pointers that they attempted against him as a senior, Jones has worked that number down to 33.3% this year and even from 5-9 feet he’s allowing a conversion rate of 34.6%.
Through his efforts offensively and defensively, the Red Claws are clearly the beneficiary. Four of the team’s top five lineup combinations feature him and his impact on the team is undeniable to those that have watched them throughout the year.
Going undrafted certainly was not the start to a professional career that he had envisioned, but the work that Jones has put into his game over the course of the summer and throughout this season has been readily apparent.
With the NBA season winding down he may be running out of time for this year, but Jalen Jones will get his chance at the next level soon enough. Given the development that he’s shown throughout this year and the natural tools that he possesses, NBA teams would be wise to give him a call sooner rather than later.