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Making the case for Perry Jones III

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Perry Jones III is far from a lock to make the Celtics' final roster. But it would be wise for Boston to give making room for him some serious thought.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Having spent the last three years playing sparingly behind Kevin Durant, Perry Jones III will head into training camp later this month with a real shot at carving out a significant NBA role. Of course, Jones III must first make the Celtics’ opening night roster.

As currently constructed, Boston has 16 guaranteed contracts on their books—one more than the league allows. And barring a trade between now and the beginning of the 2015-16 season, one of those 16 guys will have to be cut loose.

Perry Jones III shouldn’t be that guy.

At 6’11, 235 pounds, Jones possesses solid size to go with tremendous length and athleticism. Those raw tools allow the former Baylor Bear to guard multiple positions on the defensive end, just as he does here against the Brooklyn Nets.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/J_LXDcmMf6k" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Jones begins the play on Deron Williams before stepping up to guard Brook Lopez at the elbow. He then shadows Lopez across the lane to the opposite block, denying Kevin Garnett of the opportunity to dump it down low for an easy bucket. Finally, once Garnett commits to taking the ball to the basket, Jones leaves Lopez to contest KG’s shot at the rim.

There aren’t many players around the league that are capable of switching between a point guard, power forward and center in one game, let alone a single possession. And it’s that type of versatility Brad Stevens loves in his players.

You also see promising signs in this play against the Los Angeles Clippers, where Jones and Serge Ibaka are the only two guys that are in the right position during this possession:

Jones' original man is Matt Barnes. But when he sees Ibaka leave Blake Griffin to cut off Chris Paul, Jones makes the correct play in collapsing down on Griffin to snuff out a potential roll down the middle of the lane.

Even though Jones' man scored on this possession, it wasn't his fault. Instead, Durant receives the blame here, as he was late rotating out to Barnes, his help-assignment.

When Durant finally got to Barnes, it was too late. But Jones did the right thing in rotating over to the right side of the floor, where two Clippers were wide open behind the three-point line.

This is a common rotation players make numerous times throughout any given game. However, Jones' attentiveness on this end is good to see at his age. Too often younger players get caught napping, resulting in a big play for the opposition.

Offensively, Jones’ game is still very much a work in progress. But he’s shown flashes of big-time scoring potential from the low post, mid-range, and beyond the arc. His 32-point game against the Clippers last year is a prime example of that, where he punished smaller defenders on the block, scored at the rim, and knocked down an array of off-the-dribble and spot-up jumpers.

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Jones followed up his performance in LA with 20 and 16-point outings in the Thunder's next two games, capping off a nice little stretch in which he averaged 22.6 points per game on 52 and 41 percent shooting from the field and beyond the arc, respectively.

Of course, it would be wrong to assume Jones could sustain these kinds of numbers over an 82-game season. But, again, it's a reminder of his potential when given more leeway with the ball in his hands.

***

Jones still has plenty of room for improvement. But at 23 years old, there’s still time for him to reach his ceiling. And with Stevens overseeing his development, the odds of Jones becoming the player a lot of pundits projected him to be coming into the 2012 draft are certainly in his favor.

The question is: If Jones stays, who goes?

Straight-up waiving someone else on the roster seems highly unlikely. And there haven't been many rumblings on the trade front lately. However, if a deal were to present itself, perhaps the Celtics would aim to make a 2-for-1 swap, thus opening a roster sport for Jones.

"I’m just happy I got a fresh start," Jones said at his introductory press conference, via Jay King of MassLive.com. "It’s something I feel like I needed to be able to play the way I’m capable of playing."

The proverbial ball is in his court and the Celtics will surely have a close eye on him throughout the training camp process.

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H/T to Evans Clincy for the video displaying Jones' defense against Brooklyn.