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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Peach Jam Recaps: Texas Titans and Howard Pulley

My first full day at the Peach Jam was Friday, where I had no problem getting up for the 9am matchup between Howard Pulley and the Texas Titans. Highlighting this match were the names Tyus Jones, Matt Jones, Damian Jones, Akolda Manyang, Anders Broman, and of course Julius Randle. I already covered Randle's Peach Jam experience so check the link if you are interested in him.

The Texas Titans had Randle, but Howard Pulley had a top 10 player for his class as well in Tyus Jones. Jones is regarded as the #1 point guard of the 2014 class and only bolstered his stock here. He shot a tournament best 67% from 3 (10-15) and also led all participants in free throw percentage at 89% (31-35). Jones silenced any remaining doubters on his shooting ability here, and as you can see, it is actually a strength of his.

While shooting is a strength, it is his handling of the rock that makes him an elite prospect. Jones is very skilled and what stands out the most is that he plays completely mistake free basketball. He doesnt force anything and lets the game come to him. Jones is a very good ball handler and can finish with both hands. Combined with his shooting prowess and decision making, Jones is about as efficient as a guy who acts the the main facilitator and scorer can be. He has a confident swagger about him too.

His physical profile isnt the best and he isnt really flashy. Part of why he is so efficient is he makes the right plays and doesnt try to make the highlight reel play. Also, you don't see him connecting on alley oops on breaks because he is surrounded by shooters. Instead of him setting up nice plays at the rim in transition, he is usually just finding a man for an open 3. He gets his teammates great looks and has turned Anders Broman into a legitimate prospect by allowing him to showcase his beautiful 3-pt stroke.

Joneses' defense will never be anything special. He gives good effort and moves his feet well, but hes not a playmaker on that end. He gets comparisons to Chris Paul, but I think his ceiling is slightly lower than that. The good thing about Jones is that he should have a very high floor. He already does a lot of valuable things very well. He can pass, shoot, run the pick and roll, play smart and unselfishly. I just don't think he is an equal athlete in comparison to a Chris Paul. The CP3 smoothness is there, however.

Tyus Jones and his Howard Pulley squad won the game against the Titans 74-65, and although it was closer than the scorer indicated, it was an impressive win. The Titans overmatched them size wise and had 3 highly rated 2013 prospects as opposed to the 2014 Jones being the only major prospect on his team. Pulley's team is well coached and very unselfish. They didn't settle for bad shots, shot 10-25 from 3, and slowed down Randle by fronting the post.

Tyus's statline (29 points on 11-19 shooting, 8 assists, and only 2 turnovers) was particularly noteworthy considering he had Duke commit Matt Jones covering him all game. Jones acted as his team's defensive stopper all weekend, always covering the oppositions best perimeter scorer. I saw him try to lockdown both Jones and Andrew Wiggins in one day. In this particular game, Jones didn't show much offensively. He was so quiet, I thought he might have been nursing an injury.

With Matt Jones, you get a very smart player who is lethal from three (11-26 at Peach Jam) and has the length and fluidity to play great defense. He plays team basketball and fits the Duke image to the tee. He has no problem being a role player and has played second fiddle all summer next to Randle. He can be an Arron Aflalo type player in the league. He can handle the ball a bit and rarely turns it over. While he is great at catching and shooting, Jones separates himself from other shooters because he can put the ball on the floor and create his own 3-pt shot. He showed this multiple times in the game against CIA Bounce, where he avenged his measly 4 point performance from his earlier game against Howard Pulley.

Even after seeing Jones have a quiet game in my first ever look at him, I wasn't down on him. He just didn't really impose his force on the game. In the night cap and one of the most anticipated games of the event though, Jones shined. Randle was struggling so Jones knew he had to step up. And he did. He showed his competitive side and motor by defending Wiggins while dropping 26 points (and zero turnovers!!!).

Matt Jones won't post ridiculous numbers at Duke, but I'd take him on a NBA team anyday of the week when he eventually comes out. He has all the tools to be a great role player. He is one of those guys that goes mid-late first round and has no problem carving out a niche.

Damian Jones was another guy that drew a lot of attention last weekend. Jones is quickly rising up top 100 boards. He is very athletic and big, making him an extremely good and versatile defender. He has all the tools physically. NBA scouts will have an eye on him as a potential lockdown defender type, but I am not sold yet. For a guy like him to succeed, he needs to also be a great rebounder. Randle hogs a lot of the rebounds on this team, but I didn't like what I saw from Jones in terms of his hands and toughness inside. He is a little fragile, seemingly both mentally and physically. He had to be encouraged a few times after blown layups and fumbled catches. He plays efficiently on offense as he knows his role, but he is not a good finisher in traffic nor does he have much of an offensive skill set. Right now Jones is all potential. He seems like a good kid who will do what his team needs to win, but he needs a few more years to develop before we re-evaluate where he is at.

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