As a rookie, Herb Jones was already one of the most influential defenders in the NBA. The versatile striker is just getting started.
It is generally a safe assumption that first-year NBA players will struggle in defense. As modern attacks create more ground and use an increasingly wide range of stationary plays, it is arguably more difficult for young players to adapt to the speed, timing and complexity of NBA basketball than ever before.
This fact makes Herb Jones’ rookie season all the more impressive. Not since Kawhi Leonard was a player this influential early on as a perimeter defender, saving for Scotty Barnes and Evan Mobley, there hasn’t been an NBA rookie who contributed more to his team’s success on the court last season than Jones.
The Pelicans were far from the elite defense last year, in the ranking 18 in points allowed per possession and 26th place in the half-court defenseBut Jones was the driving force behind their moderate success. New Orleans allowed 4 fewer points per 100 properties (and nearly 10 points per 100 was better overall) with Jones on the fieldBy the end of the season, he relied heavily on him to solidify the shaky wing defense.
Now entering his second season in the NBA, Jones has evolved from an interesting young player on a choppy playing team to a key member of a group that expects to make real buzz in the post-season, and his growth in both directions will dramatically affect how good Pelicans can be this general.
Great defenders react instantaneously to their opponents’ moves, but the best defenders go a step further by proactively dictating the terms of engagement. Jones has already put himself in the latter category. It wasn’t just a strong ball stopper or defender helping the sound last year; He destroyed opposition to crimes with his activity, feeling, and material tools, making his opponents work for what they would normally take for granted.
He plays every part as big as his 6-foot-8 frame and 7-foot wing would suggest, and while many of the young wings have measurable elements and athletic performance, Jones imposes his physical abilities on the game as many can. few others. His block rate last season made him 81st among all attackers, glass cleaningTheft rate was 94 percent.
Comparing Herb Jones to Kawhi Leonard isn’t as far-fetched as it seems
Much like Leonard early in his career, Jones’ simple personality and calm demeanor often contrast with the sheer force with which he plays. He’s stronger and more physical than his slender skeleton might suggest, and he withstood bigger players who tried to deploy him at the start of last season. He’s almost clairvoyant in the way he anticipates the game, and his quick reaction time allows him to make plays that 98 percent of his NBA peers can’t.
Jones may be the best in the NBA in drilling from the wing to strip drivers of the ball, and his ability to target the ball as it leaves a passing or dribbling hand is eerily reminiscent of Leonard:
One of Jones’ favorite tricks is the toggle switch, where he turns off his leg after driving and then recovers for a player whose teammate helped him intercept the pass:
Jones routinely stab opponents in these types of bad passes by appearing in passing lanes from unexpected places and using his odd arms to catch the ball in the air:
Even the most charismatic ball players should tread lightly around Jones, who pounces live dribbling like a snake on his humble prey. Loose crossovers and slow passes may be additional gift-wrapped possessions for the Pelicans, and Jones may indeed be an NBA Choice of six king. This gave New Orleans a huge boost in Transitional crime In Jones minutes, the swans defended better On the edge with Jones on the floor.
What makes all this chaotic activity so impressive is how Jones – unlike the prolific NBA burglars – still plays within his team’s defensive scheme. It somehow broke the traditional NBA defense rules without compromising the overall structure of the New Orleans apparel. His gambles are always calculated and usually correct – aggressive without being overzealous, opportunistic but never impulsive. He knows exactly how much he can help his leg and still recover, how quickly he can get to the point when the ball is in the air and, crucially, where the ball and opponent go next.
Jones isn’t a great offensive player at this point in his career, although he fits into the Pelicans’ system as a low-use active role player. He’s probably never a prolific scorer or playmaker, but he knows how to find easy shots within the attack flow and can be a powerful extra passer with the ability to perform one or two passes. He played well around CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram last season, although improvement as a shooter could mitigate some tough edges between Jones and his Pelican stars. He shot 34 percent from low depth as a beginner, and opponents will continue to help him until he proves he can hit shots at an above average rate. That could spark greater divergence fears for New Orleans this season now that Zion Williamson is back and Jonas Valančiūnas, a person other than the shooter, is still lurking in the paint.
Williamson’s return also means Jones likely won’t have as much room to extend his offensive game as other sophomores. But he no longer needs that kind of leeway to establish himself as a player in the NBA. Even if he never improves in some way after his first season, Jones will be a perennial All-Defense candidate and a two-way player of immense value. And most likely, it will grow into something much greater than the horror that it already is.