4. Terrence Jones
Coming out of high school, Terrence Jones was considered one of the best players in the nation. Jones was rated ahead of future NBA players such as Victor Oladipo, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Terrence Ross.
Jones was a McDonald’s All-American and ultimately signed with Kentucky after leading Jefferson High School to three straight state championships. He didn’t disappoint in Lexington either, as he set the freshman single-game scoring record, with 35 points, and was a part of a Final Four team. Although the Wildcats didn’t win the title that season, Jones was named First-Team All-SEC and SEC Rookie of the Year.
Jones averaged 15.7 points and 8.8 rebounds as a freshman, which were both top-two on the Wildcats that year. During his sophomore season, Jones was a starter on Kentucky’s loaded national championship team, which included Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Jones averaged 12.3 points and 7.2 rebounds, as the Wildcats won the national championship that season, due in large part to the heroics of Anthony Davis. Jones got overlooked in a loaded NBA draft class that included Davis, MKG, Bradley Beal, and Damian Lillard, who were all selected ahead of him.
Jones was considered a tweener coming out of Kentucky, as it was believed that he was a bit undersized to play power forward, although his overall array of skills seemed like a mismatch for power forwards to defend. The Rockets ultimately selected Jones with the 18th pick in the draft, which is frankly low enough that it’s worth taking a risk.
The NBA Draft is much different than the NFL Draft, and generally once you get outside of the lottery picks, most believe you’ll be lucky to find a contributor. But Jones became a valuable contributor on the Rockets during the 2013-14 season and the 2014-15 season, which were both playoff teams.
During the 2013-14 season, Jones became a starter, and he posted averages of 12.1 points and 6.9 rebounds, which was a welcome surprise. Perhaps Jones’ best season came during the 2014-15 season, in which he helped the Rockets withstand the injuries to Dwight Howard.
During that season, Jones posted averages of 11.7 points and 6.7 rebounds, while also making 35.1 percent of his 3-pointers. In addition, he posted a player efficiency rating of 18.3, which was third-best behind only James Harden and Dwight Howard, while playing predominantly in a reserve role.
Although the Oregon lost the starting job to Donatas Motiejunas, he became the Rockets’ postseason starter when D-Mo was lost for the season with a back injury, and he played well in his absence. The Rockets drew a first round matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, and Jones averaged 12.8 points and 6.4 rebounds during that series.
All in all, Jones averaged 10.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game during that postseason, in which the Rockets reached the Western Conference Finals. It’s safe to say the Rockets found a solid player when the drafted Jones as the 18th player in the 2012 NBA Draft.
Next: No. 3