In advance of the 2020 NBA Draft, Peachtree Hoops is evaluating prospects with a look at what the Atlanta Hawks might be considering from now until the selection process occurs. Dozens of prospects will be profiled in this space and, in this edition, we glance at Arkansas standout Mason Jones.
The value of Mason Jones as an NBA draft prospect may come down to the consideration as to whether teams should be drafting athletes or basketball players. Of course, few players are only one of the two.
Jones is quite skilled and possesses the desired abilities all teams seek in the form of players that can execute with the ball in his hands. He also has decent size at 6’5 and 200 pounds, but the limitations he has as an athlete leads one to wonder how much some of the skill will translate at the NBA level.
Having had a very productive season (22 points, 5 rebounds, 3.4 assist per game) at Arkansas as a junior, Jones seems like he might be ready to help an NBA second unit offense sooner than later. It must be noted, however, that a ton of his production came at the free throw line. He led the nation in both attempts and makes at the charity stripe. If his usage isn’t expect to translate, then his statistical accomplishments may need to be viewed in a somewhat adjusted manner as well.
At age 22, Jones is not quite as young as many prospects with whom he is competing to be drafted. But, with some lack of clarity regarding how much of a normal NBA pre-season teams will get ahead of the 2020-2021 season, some teams may value players perceived to have skills that make them more ready for the professional game.
Offensively, Jones is a credible shooter despite the fact that the motion and release are a bit stiff and slow. He is more proficient shooting off of the dribble than he is in catch and shoot opportunities. To date, he displays a bit of a tendency to attack close out defenders with dribble penetration when operating in spot up situations.
Let’s take a look at some of Jones’ work in the offensive half court.
He puts a lot of his craft to work setting up his defender for a step-back or side-step shot. As are some right handers, he seems more comfortable working to his left to get to his perimeter shot. When attacking the paint, he prefers to begin from the left side of the offensive floor.
Despite decent assist numbers, Jones is pretty limited in how he creates shot for others. As such, he is going to have to develop quite significantly as an effective spot up player which will require him to be able to attack from any angle. If he can only work with, roughly, half the floor in an NBA setting that’s not going to help him break into a rotation.
Statistically, he was a very good finisher at the rim, but a good bit of that was the result of Jones being able to dominate angles and contact against smaller, less physical players. It is hard to imagine some of his under-the-rim techniques working when challenged by players with NBA size and athleticism.
All of this considered, Jones looks the part of a trustworthy player who creates and takes good shots and one that doesn’t force things and doesn’t chase his own numbers. From an energy and activity standpoint, he works just as hard off of the ball as on it, he’s happy to set screens for teammates, and he can always be seen helping younger players get into the right spots.
If there were going to be a summer league, Jones would be, possibly, valued a bit more because of his ability to get his team organized. That would be of service in a G League setting as well. He has his goals set a bit higher than that but it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him spend time playing at a developmental level next year regardless of what type of contract he ends up landing.
Defensively, much of the same can be said from an awareness and engagement perspective. He consistently knows what is going on, is reliably in the right place and applies himself in the more nuanced areas of team play.
He helps at the right times and in the right spots. He prompts a teammate to do the same if the help is slow to be recognized or executed.
But, his average foot speed and lack of vertical skills limits what he can do to impact any given possession.
An example can be seen here:
Jones sees the ball and both offensive players to be accounted for as the first player back in transition defense. However, he doesn’t have anything with which to work to impact the ball handler or the shooter.
With some regularity, he looks like he is on top of his responsibility but ends up being a half step late in the area of execution. That is very likely to be tied to his limitations in the areas of quickness and foot speed.
It will be critical that Jones takes full advantage of what NBA teams have to offer in the athletic training and performance department. At a minimum, he is going to have to become at least explosive enough to pull into the paint as a weak side help defender while still having some chance to get back out on the perimeter to chase a shooter off of the three-point line. He has some not insignificant progress to make in this area.
Jones could be a player that, in the aggregate, might have more earning potential in the European leagues than he does in the NBA. Regardless, he should have every opportunity to show an NBA team how he might be able to help them. There is little doubt he will embrace the role he is asked to fill and do so with more than enough engagement and effort.