As we all know by now, the Celtics entered training camp with 16 guaranteed contracts. Since only 15 are allowed on the final roster, the Celtics had to cut or trade one player before the start of the regular season.
The consensus has been that Perry Jones, who the Celtics acquired via trade this summer from the Oklahoma City Thunder, was the least likely of the 16 to make the team. As a result, Jones had the most to prove this preseason. In effect, Jones was the only one who had to go out and win a spot during training camp and the preseason.
Despite the long odds he faced, some observers felt that Jones would force a real competition for the final roster spot, and why not? Players like Jones do not come around often. The 23 year-old Jones is 6'11, 235 pounds, with a 7'2 wingspan, and there's a plausible case to be made that Jones is the most athletic player on the Celtics roster. In fact, in Kevin Durant's opinion, Jones is the most athletic player in the NBA.
Kevin Durant just said he thinks Perry Jones III is the best athlete in the league.— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) May 29, 2014
Although Jones never received consistent minutes in his three seasons with the Thunder, he had one stretch of starts at the beginning of last season. How did Jones respond? With a three game stretch against the Clippers, Nuggets, and Nets, that is likely keeping Danny Ainge up at night as the decision to cut Jones looms.
There are simply not many players on the Celtics with more talent and upside than Jones. In a piece earlier this summer for CelticsLife, Paul Colahan ranked the roster by their respective star potential and Jones was 9th.
More importantly, Jones appears to be the type of player Brad Stevens covets. In an interview last season with Jay King of masslive.com, Stevens said the following:
"One of the things that I personally place a high, high value on are basketball players, not positions, because you can win with good basketball players altogether. Hopefully we can continue to grow in those areas and continue to get these guys better and be superstars in their natural positions, but also as versatile as they can be because the more positions you can play, the longer you're on the floor."
During his three seasons in the NBA, Jones has played three positions, with 25% of his minutes at SF, 45% at PF, and 30% at C. Given Stevens' emphasis on basketball players and not positions, as well as Jones' ability to play multiple spots on the floor, this seemed like the perfect marriage, which makes what happened last week so difficult to understand.
During Wednesday night's win in Brooklyn, Jones played only ten minutes and was the 13th player off the bench. Two nights later, during the Celtics loss to the Knicks, Jones received a healthy DNP while training-camp-invitees Corey Walden and Levi Randolph received minutes.
DNP for Perry Jones. Stevens said he wanted to give Hunter and Young extended minutes. Bad sign for Jones chances of making team #Celtics— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) October 17, 2015
I can't help but wonder what Jones did, or did not do, to get to the point where Stevens felt it was more important to give valuable minutes and evaluation time to non-roster training-camp-invitees. In order to believe Stevens when he says Jones received a healthy DNP in order to give extended minutes to Young and Hunter, you have to also believe that Stevens views all three as one-position players who all play the same position. Hence, why minutes for Jones equals fewer minutes for Young and Hunter. C'mon, Brad, no one believes that...
First of all, Hunter played minutes at the point against the Knicks, so Jones' presence in the game would not have taken away Hunter's minutes. Second of all, consider what Stevens told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe at the time of the Jones trade:
“One of the things about Perry, and this is for the short term and long term, which position will he play?” Stevens said. “But the biggest benefit is he’s a positionless player in a positionless league. And so to me, Perry needs to soar with the strengths at the position he’s at.”
Although three preseason games remain, and anything is possible, it is clear Jones will be the odd man out in Boston. In Stevens' only two seasons coaching in the NBA -- the 2013 and 2014 seasons -- no player in the bottom three of total preseason minutes has ever made the final roster, which is exactly Perry Jones currently resides.
Although we may never find out what really happened here, based on Stevens' comment regarding Jones yesterday,it is now apparent there was never a competition for the 15th and final roster spot, which to me, is the most surprising story line of the preseason so far.
Oh well, at least we still have the unprotected 2019 second-round pick the Thunder sent over with Jones.
Questions for Readers: do you think Stevens eve saw Jones as a viable option for the roster? What is your most surprising story line of the Celtics preseason so far?
Photo Credit: AP Photo
Follow Max Sandgrund on Twitter @SotoSpeakz Max Sandgrund 10/19/2015 11:23:00 AM Tweet Edit