Houston Rockets: Mason Jones is an undrafted gem

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - MARCH 4: Mason Jones #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks gets the crowd cheering during a game against the LSU Tigers at Bud Walton Arena on March 4, 2020 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Razorbacks defeated the Tigers 99-90. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
FAYETTEVILLE, AR - MARCH 4: Mason Jones #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks gets the crowd cheering during a game against the LSU Tigers at Bud Walton Arena on March 4, 2020 in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The Razorbacks defeated the Tigers 99-90. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets were quick to sign undrafted free agent Mason Jones to a two-way contract. The University of Arkansas standout is a perfect organizational fit.

The Houston Rockets didn’t make much of a splash on draft night but that doesn’t mean they weren’t busy adding talent for the future. After the conclusion of the NBA draft, the Rockets quickly moved to sign Mason Jones, from the University of Arkansas to a two-way contract.

The 6’5 combo-guard will begin his NBA journey with the Rio Grande Vipers but don’t expect him to languish in the G-League forever. Jones has consistently proved the doubters wrong and rose from relative obscurity to the cusp of the NBA.

Four years ago Mason Jones would be unrecognizable to the man you see today. Jones did not receive a college offer to his liking and engaged in a postgraduate year to realize his basketball dreams.

Jones went from 270 pounds to 230 in his single postgraduate year and showed enough to latch on at Connors State College. Jones, unsatisfied being a community college All-Star, kept working to improve his game and body. After a single season of community college, he earned a scholarship to the University of Arkansas where he starred the past two seasons.

At the University of Arkansas Jones was an offensive force. Over his two-year career, he averaged 17.6 points per game on 35.8-percent 3-point shooting and 81.9-percent free-throw shooting.

Career averages like that can land a player in the school record books if they stick around for four years. In Jones’ final season of college his 22 points per game led the SEC and earned him All-SEC honors.

Jones’ skill and craft allowed him to score at will and to compensate for non-elite athleticism. However, with the way the NBA is trending, skill and craft are becoming more valued than athleticism.

There is optimism that Jones has untapped athletic growth that is usually not seen from a 22-year-old. He now weighs in at 200 pounds and most of Jones’ efforts on improving his body have come via dropping weight. With an NBA training program designed to build explosiveness, Jones could see his athleticism get to a level that is playable in the NBA.

Long-term projection for Rockets

The long term projection for Jones is as a high octane bench scorer who can space the floor and adequately run an offense. It’s unlikely he’ll ever be a starter on a good team due to the concerns that his lack of athleticism will make his defense too poor to stop NBA starters. However, spark plug bench scorers still have a tremendous amount of value to any playoff team.

The downside for Jones is that his lack of burst limits him enough offensively that he’s nothing more than a G-League All-Star who lights up the scoreboard. Either way, players like Jones are exactly the type of players the Rockets should be targeting.

His game fits the organization’s overarching offensive philosophy centered on perimeter play and 3-point shooting and if he does continue to improve he could become a real contributor down the line. Ben McLemore came out of college with much more fanfare but he remains a good comp for Jones. A three-point specialist who you hope hits enough shots to offset the points they allow on the defensive end.

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The Rockets snagged themselves a player who could have a real future with the franchise because of how his skillset lines up with how the organization plays. Don’t be surprised if in the near future Mason Jones is hitting a big three for the Rockets.

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