Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This installment evaluates Tennessee’s Jordan Bone.
After being a top 200 high school prospect in the 2016 recruiting class, Jordan Bone had unremarkable seasons during his freshman and sophomore years at Tennessee. The 2018-19 campaign was different, however, as he put together a breakout performance, helped lead the Volunteers to a 31-6 record, and earned second team All-SEC honors.
Bone has been invited to the NBA draft combine in Chicago, and he is one of the more interesting players to track during those events given the draft class is full of wings but not so rich in offensive creators.
Bone is decently efficient as a shooter, but his overall profile as a prospect is impressive if you are just basing it on his play during the 2018-19 NCAA season. He generated 16.3 points and 7.1 assists per game, despite being third on his team in usage (21.3%). To be able to have an assist rate north of 30% on that usage is frankly splendid.
He knocked down 35.5% of his attempts from the three point line last season, but many of his shots come from well beyond the collegiate line. That suggests that his shot is likely to project to the NBA level.
Bone is not featured on ESPN’s top 100 prospects of the 2019 NBA draft class (though he ranks at No. 70 for The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie), nor is he showing up on some mock drafts. But when you are looking for a player that profiles to have the versatility that NBA teams aim to find in a backup guard, Bone hits many of the marks.
He was the point guard on the third-most efficient offense in the country last season, and Bone did not need a ton of usage to do so. As a scorer, he was more efficient when playing off the ball than on the ball. Per Synergy, he was a top-20 scorer in spot up possessions and top-10 in off screen possessions, among the 70 or so college players who are being profiled in our draft series. Ideally, you would want your backup point guard to be a fit to play alongside your starting point guard, and Bone’s profile suggests that could be the case.
Important specifically in an Atlanta Hawks-based evaluation of Bone, it is noteworthy that he is comfortable in pushing the pace. Tennessee was about average in pace as a team last season, but in watching him play, Bone clearly enjoyed opportunities to push the tempo and look to create shots early in the shot clock.
When operating on the ball, he likes to get down hill and attack the paint. He was inconsistent finishing at the rim, but he has the athleticism and solid vertical skills that with improved judgement he could develop in that area of the game.
On this play, Bone demonstrates that he does not have to dribble all the way to the rim before he initiates his leap toward the rim.
Here, Bone uses a screen to get separation from his defender as he cuts along the baseline. Next, he sets up to execute a side pick and roll, the opposing big man significantly overplays the screen. Bone recognizes it quickly and attacks the baseline and gets the uncontested layup.
Measuring in at 6’3 and 180 pounds, Bone does not profile as a player (at least on paper) that you would expect to offer much defensive versatility. And, should he land with an NBA team, he would play all but about the first three weeks of the 2019-20 NBA season at the age of 22. So he’s not likely to grow much more, if at all.
With that out of the way, Bone is a good team defender. He works hard on the defensive end of the court. Beyond that, he plays with an anticipation and activity that allows him to hold up, at times, against bigger players just by getting to the spot before the other player does.
Tennessee played more man-to-man than zone scheme last season, so NBA teams probably already have an idea of how they evaluate Bone as a half-court man-to-man defender. This play offers a glimpse into the amount of range Bone has as a defender, and how heady he is to go along with the sense of urgency with which he plays. These are the characteristics of a player that might be able to give a team more on that end of the court than his size suggests.
Bone could be a player the Hawks are tracking a little more closely than others given the fact that the style that they are looking to play is a fit for his areas of strength. Also, it’s not clear at all whom the organization projects to play the back-up point guard position behind Trae Young, even with Jaylen Adams on the roster.
Ultimately, the Hawks may not even need to use one of their three second round picks to acquire Bone if they seek to do so. They could offer him a camp contract and, if things went well, perhaps the team offer him one of their two-way contracts. Bone might be one to keep an eye on as the combine takes place and through the team-based workout process.