Damian Jones, enrolled 30th in 2016, spent his first three seasons on the bench winning two championships with the Golden State Warriors. He started 22 of the first 24 games of the 2018-19 season, replacing the injured DeMarcus Cousins. However, a torn left pectoral muscle excluded him for the rest of the season. He returned for the Western Conference Finals, but played only 18 minutes in the playoffs.
In what now appears to be a blessing in disguise, the Warriors have traded Jones with the Atlanta Hawks for Omari Spellman. Jones has finally received consistent minutes for the first time in his career, playing in 55 games before stopping. He only has an average of 16.1 minutes / game and has shown some of what he would have been capable of in the NBA.
During his first three seasons, Jones was a minor talent version of Mitchell Robinson. He quickly became one of Trae Young’s most reliable finishers around paint, whether he was out of pick-and-roll penetration or dribbling. Jones has fired 76% from 0-3 ft this season, albeit with very low usage. Just like Mitch, Jones offered almost nothing outside of finishing the offensive edge. Unlike Mitch, Jones showed many shortcomings in defense, although most of this can be attributed to the other players on the roster. It is difficult to become an acceptable defender when Trae Young is the worst defender in the league.
Jones is a player in which a team would need to make a significant investment to become a great effective man. It is very raw both from an athletic point of view and from an IQ point of view on basketball. The expectations of production as selection in the first round caused a great disappointment.
Great men are known to take a long time to develop. Jones may only need time, but he has the physical gifts to be decent in this league. If the Knicks want to develop a strong basketball culture, the team must develop a propensity to develop our own players and unlock the untapped potential of underutilized free agents. Maybe it means signing Jones and making him develop both on the NBA roster and with the Westchester Knicks. It may be worth betting.