Mar 29, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) controls the ball during the first quarter as Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones (6) defends at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Rockets Contingency Plan Requires Terrence Jones to Step Up

Apr 20, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones (6) shoots during the third quarter as Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) defends in game one during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

This 2014 free agency period has been a wild one for the Houston Rockets so far this summer. The Rockets went into the summer hoping to net a third big fish to go alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard.

The Houston Rockets had an opportunity to choose from the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and even pursued LeBron James.  While the Rockets did a great job aiming for the stars, GM Daryl Morey was unable to land the big fish he angled for.

As a result of losing out on the big names, they also lost out on their own talented swingman Chandler Parsons who signed an offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks.

The best free agent fit of anyone this year would have been Chris Bosh had he committed to Houston. Bosh could have fulfilled an important need at the 4-spot that the team needs. Right now the Rockets have Terrence Jones at the four, and he will be going into his third year and will be looked upon to make a leap.

Even though he has only played two seasons (the first season was mostly with the D-league affiliate), Jones looks like a player who is going to continue to make strides. Jones has all the physical tools to be a good power forward; he is 6’9″ 250 pounds and very athletic. With that being said, he could end up being the best 4-man the Rockets has to offer when the season starts.

Offensively Jones can improve on his perimeter, and mid-range shots he’s not a great three-point shooter but that is also not his game he is more of a slasher and more around the basket type of guy. Last year he shot 54 percent from the field while shooting 31 percent from the three even though he only attempted 101 threes.

From the short corners Jones is a below average shooter according to his shot chart on NBA.com, also from the free throw line extended to the top of the key he is an inconsistent shooter there as well. The top of the key normally serves as a trail spot for four men to step in and take that top of the key three if capable or step in and take the mid-range. If Jones can see an increase on his perimeter and mid-range shooting he will need to start knocking those top of the key jumpers down, the Rockets will be in good shape at the four position this season and more successful pick and pops can be executed as well.

Terrence Jones sweet spots are around the rim which I expected to see. Jones can also do a better job of using his right hand and developing more of a back to the basket 4-man type of game. He can also develop face up game as well he is young and athletic enough to take power forwards off the dribble.

Coming out of Kentucky as a sophomore he was not asked to have his back to the basket, or use both hands equally, or even face up a lot, so it’s taking him awhile getting acclimated to that in the NBA. If the Rockets want to be successful, this year Jones skill level will have to rise with Olajuwon being in Houston I think that will help him as well.

Defensively is also where Jones will have to improve greatly if he is going to be the best 4-man on this roster. In recent memories, we remember the playoff series against the Trailblazers this year where Jones had more than a hard time defending LaMarcus Aldridge, which left fans feeling a bit iffy about the future of Jones.

Against average four men, defensively Jones matches up pretty well but the elite at his position he has a hard time with. The west has a lot of firepower at the four position with the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Blake Griffin, Zach Randolph, and Tim Duncan.

It is easy for the elite power forwards to take advantage of him because of his inexperience which as why at times the Rockets had to go with the bigger lineup of Omer Asik and Dwight Howard to make up for Jones defensive disadvantages. Asik is no longer with the team which means Jones will have to grow up quickly.

In his third season, he will have to take the next step defensively if Rockets want to stay in the top half of the west and continue to be contenders.

Terence Jones looks to have a good upside assuming improvements to his overall game. He is far from a finished product. His skill level is good for his size not elite; he averaged 12PPG and 7RPG this year. This year I can see him being a 15 and 8 type of guy. By standards I think it would be ok to compare his game to that of Josh Smith, a good athletic talent with a streaky skill set.

Smith has been known as a borderline all-star but just not good enough which can be Terrence Jones ceiling. Jones is only 22 years which is good for his learning curve because he is still young. Now that Asik is gone Jones defensive production and intensity has to go from 5 to 10 with 10 being marked as a stout defender. Asik has been known around the league to be an elite defender and often made up for Jones defensive inexperience playing out of position at the four spot. After missing out big in free agency, it’s obvious to see why Houston’s front office and the fans are banking on a lot of growth from Jones this year. He will have to deliver.

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