Kansas Jayhawks: Jeff Withey Steps Up; Perry Ellis Dominates in Season Opener

Kansas center Jeff Withey struggled in the two exhibition games against Emporia State and Washburn University. Withey made only six of his 13 shots and put up only 16 points in the two exhibition games combined. He committed five turnovers in the two preseason matches and knew he needed to make up for his sloppy performance in the season opener.

He did just that against Southeast Missouri State. Withey went 5-of-12 shooting and made 70 percent of his free throws. Withey also made an impact on the boards with 12 rebounds and prevented some scores with five blocked shots.

Withey never fouled and turned the ball over only once. He led all scorers with 17 points as Kansas went on to win, 74-55.

Kansas also received help from multiple freshmen in Friday’s win. Forwards Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor and guard Ben McLemore all received significant minutes on the floor against the Redhawks.

Ellis had the most dominant performance as he made all five free throws and came up with eight rebounds and finished the night with 15 points. McLemore impressed a lot of spectators at Allen Fieldhouse after leading the team in assists with five and also co-leading the team in rebounds with Withey.

Kansas encountered a few issues against Southeast Missouri State. Kansas made 39 percent of its shots and went 2-of-21 from beyond the arc. Bill Self wants better production from his players in those areas, but he’ll take the win and enjoy the 1-0 start to the season.

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Perry Jones III: Thunder SF Made Parting with James Harden Possible

The Oklahoma City Thunder pulled off a huge trade on Saturday, sending James Harden to the Houston Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and future draft considerations.

OKC is definitely is looking to the future with this move. Harden is a star player that makes an immediate impact on the team.

Martin hasn’t lived up to expectations, and Lamb hasn’t been as impressive in recent weeks compared to his play in the summer league.

So how can the Thunder make this move without hurting their chances of returning to the NBA Finals?

In large part, the play of Perry Jones III.

Jones was a big part of the best draft in June. When discussing  the Thunder’s selections, I stated Oklahoma City “needed some help up front and had one of the best picks in the draft by selecting Baylor’s Perry Jones III. If Jones’ knee concerns don’t become an issue, he has lottery-pick value and will be a great addition to the team. Playing a reserve role should help keep him healthy.”

Jones has the size, athleticism and skill to be a star in the NBA. He played well enough at times in college to be considered a top-five pick. 

Since being drafted by the Thunder, he’s only helped his case. 

It looked as though Daequan Cook was going to step in and take over some significant minutes this season, but Jones has outplayed him thus far.

The versatility and athleticism of the Thunder allow the flexibility of moving players between the guard and small forward spots. Jones will be a key part of the equation that replaces the production of the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.

The Thunder are building through the draft and are being rewarded for taking a few chances. By trading Harden, they are getting value from a player they would have lost at the end of the season, as Harden rejected a four-year, $52 million extension.

The trade includes substantial draft consideration. According to recent reports, it is a package of three picks.

While some teams largely ignore the draft, the Thunder are mostly built from their selections. Perry is their latest success story, and he will make the transition from Harden painless for the team and the fans.

 

Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report’s Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and Seattle Seahawks.

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5 Things Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant Can Teach Perry Jones III

Unfairly tall for his position, freakishly athletic yet in dire need of some muscles, rookie Perry Jones III seems to be the exact carbon copy of Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant—even down to the amazing untapped potential and serviceable versatility that comes with stardom. 

Unlike Durant, however, Jones suffered the biggest plunge on draft day after being projected top-10 material. He slid all the way out of the lottery until Sam Presti and the Thunder organization decided to take their chances with the prospect at No. 28.

While going from a top prospect to a late first-round choice sounds downright terrible, the fall might not be as bad as everyone thinks. On the other hand, one big advantage comes with the decrease in draft stock; Jones gets to play with and learn from his prototype and role model, Kevin Durant. 

The youngest scoring champion in NBA history and the leader of the strong Thunder team, Durant is certainly someone to model one’s game after. He has a lot of deadly skills in his arsenal, many of which can’t be duplicated due to his eccentric combination of length, athleticism and skill.

Fortunately for Jones, he is so similar to Durant that he will have no problem learning from one of the most proficient scorers in the league right now. If good lessons are given and hard work is put in, there will be nothing Durant can’t teach Jones to do.

All tricks put aside, here are five of the most important skills Durant can teach Jones.

Begin Slideshow

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Oklahoma City Thunder: Can Perry Jones III Replace James Harden?

The Oklahoma City Thunder made a strong move toward keeping their young core intact on Saturday, when they reportedly signed Serge Ibaka to a four-year, $48 million contract extension.

This was a great move by the Thunder, as they managed to lock up the team’s defensive anchor long term, ensuring them the ability to compete with the powerhouse Lakers‘ frontcourt going forward.    

However, the Ibaka signing comes with a not-so-silver lining. Ibaka’s $12 million per year takes a significant chunk out of the Thunder’s cap flexibility, bringing into question the team’s ability to also re-sign sixth man extraordinaire James Harden.

Harden was a key cog in the Thunder’s remarkable run last season, winning Sixth Man of the Year honors while serving as the third-leading scorer for Oklahoma City. Harden came up big countless times throughout the season and into the playoffs, and despite a weak finals performance, there is no doubting Harden’s importance to the Thunder.

Regardless, Harden becomes a restricted free agent next summer, and the Thunder may soon have to decide if they can afford to keep the popular guard. There also exists the chance the decision won’t be theirs to make, as Harden could be lured away from contention by the opportunity to be the go-to guy for a team like Phoenix.

The Thunder feature one of the league’s most dynamic scoring trios in Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Harden, but the scoring ability drops off sharply after those three. Ibaka has improved steadily as a scorer, but his primary value will always rest on his defensive abilities, and taking Harden out of the equation could leave the Thunder without a veritable third option.

Yet the solution to this problem may already be in place. In the recent 2012 draft, the Thunder had the great fortune of watching talented enigma Perry Jones III slide to them down at the 28th overall pick. And though many critics have questioned Jones’ motor and ability to effectively play an NBA position, there is no denying his talent.

Harden and Jones are by no means similar players. Harden is a 6’5” shooter who excels at driving into the lane and initiating contact. Jones is a 6’11” combo forward whose combination of size and versatility have resulted in comparisons to (you guessed it) Kevin Durant.

Jones may have similar stature to Durant, but he lacks the polish and sweet-shooting ability that enabled Durant to become an immediate star in the NBA. Jones is a great finisher, and his jump shot has potential, but he has displayed an unwillingness to bang in the paint and often seems to float during games.

Jones’ flaws were particularly evident during his two-year college career at Baylor. Jones put up solid numbers (13.5 points, 7.6 rebounds in 2011-12), but failed to meet the high expectations that accompanied him into college. However, his struggles may be largely due to his role in the Baylor system. Jones often struggled to get into an offensive rhythm and had little room to make use of the offensive versatility that is his trademark.

What Jones needs is a system, and a role, that will allow him to play to his strengths and play in a quick, dynamic offense that will allow him to take advantage of mismatches against opposing players. 

So fear not, Thunder fans, for there is no better team in the NBA to harness the latent skills of such a talented prospect. Much of Oklahoma City’s success has stemmed from their top-notch player development, and chances are good that the Thunder coaching staff will be able to draw the best out of a player with such great ability. 

So although Jones remains very much a project for the time being, and will likely take a while to develop, it’s not so outlandish to think he could mold into a player capable of replacing or even surpassing Harden’s contributions to the Thunder.

And though minutes might initially seem unavailable for Jones, who projects as a big 3 or stretch 4 in the NBA, the increasing positional flexibility in the league makes it easier to picture a lineup featuring Durant, Jones and Ibaka all on the court at the same time. There’s little doubt such a triad would create significant matchup problems for opponents. 

Perry Jones may not morph into the superstar he looked like coming out of high school, but he is a unique talent who has the opportunity to improve greatly under the tutelage of Kevin Durant and the Thunder coaching staff. Jones has proved that there is little he can’t do; it’s just a matter of putting his mind to it.

In the event that Harden decides to test his scoring mettle elsewhere, Jones should do a fine job of stepping in to keep the Thunder in contention. And if not, just imagine a lineup of Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Jones and Ibaka tearing up the NBA. 

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NBA Draft 2012: Fall of Perry Jones III Makes Oklahoma City Thunder Even Richer

Baylor forward Perry Jones III was widely considered a top-10 NBA talent and potentially the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, before returning to school for his sophomore season.

Now, after questions surfaced regarding Jones’ health caused his stock to plummet in the 2012 draft, the 6’11″, 235-pounder may have lost some money in the short term, but it’s very possible that Jones will make up for it by adding some jewelry to his trophy case.

Jones, who averaged 14 points and almost eight rebounds a game last year for the Baylor Bears, was predicted by many to be at the very least a lottery pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

However, after reports circulated that Jones had issues with the meniscus in one of his knees, the talented youngster’s draft stock free-fell all the way to 28th overall, where he was selected by the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder.

According to an Associated Press report published by the Washington Post, Thunder general manager Sam Presti was fully aware of the questions surrounding Jones’ knee, stating that problems “existed even before Jones played the last two seasons at Baylor and it shouldn’t keep him out next season, or even during summer league.”

In fact, Presti went so far as to mention Jones’ straight-line speed as one of the strengths of the 21-year-old’s game, an asset that should come in very handy on a Thunder squad that likes to get up and down the court in a hurry.

For his part Jones seems to have taken his draft-day slide in stride, finding a silver lining where others might grouse about having been overlooked.

However, as Jones told the AP, that doesn’t mean that he won’t use his drop as motivation, although he’s overjoyed that it ended where it did:

“Everybody knows that I wasn’t supposed to slide as far as I did but, to be honest, I’m happy I did. This is a great organization. I mean, it’s the perfect spot,” Jones said after holding up his new No. 3 jersey, signifying the suffix on his name.

“It surprised me because I didn’t think I’d be here in a million years,” Jones said. “Actually on draft night, when the pick came up for them, I was thinking to myself, ‘Well, they don’t need me, so they definitely won’t pick me.’”

Pick him they did, although it’s unsure exactly what role Jones will fill with the Thunder in the early going.

The team would appear to be pretty set at small forward with—oh, what’s his name—that Durant kid.

Kevin, I think.

However, Jones could challenge Serge Ibaka for significant minutes early at the power-forward spot, especially if/when the team decides to go with a more up-tempo lineup against opponents that feature a lot of quickness.

Granted, there will be growing pains (as there almost always are with rookies), Jones will need to bulk up some at the professional level and there may well come a day when his knee will need to be surgically repaired.

With that said, that day hasn’t arrived yet, and anytime that a team that just made a trip to the NBA Finals gets a player who not too long ago was considered a potential No. 1 pick, that team will all but surely take it’s chances, as the rest of the NBA mutters obscenities in the background.

The rich just got richer out west.

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NBA Draft 2012: Is Perry Jones III a Perfect Fit for the Philadelphia 76ers?

Four years ago, the Philadelphia 76ers had a crucial decision to make as they entered the offseason. They had shown genuine interest in two power forwards, both of whom flashed contrasting styles of play.

Atlanta Hawks‘ forward Josh Smith was coming off of a season in which he averaged 17.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game, emerging as one of the NBA‘s most prominent young players.

Although Smith entered the summer of 2008 as a restricted free-agent, his value to the 76ers could have been astronomical. At 6’9” and 225 pounds, Smith showed he was capable of running the floor, scoring and passing well in transition, while also rebounding well for a player of his size.

Elton Brand of the Clippers was entering unrestricted free-agency after boasting very similar stats (17.6 points and 8 rebounds per game) in the 2007-2008 season.

While the Sixers did their due diligence and hosted Smith for a visit, they ultimately went with Brand.

Since signing Brand, the Sixers have lacked any sort of punch in the frontcourt. Due to some injury struggles and a naturally aging body, Brand’s play has been on the decline for the last few seasons.

Brand hit a new low this season, playing an average of 28.9 minutes per game, and proved to be a non-factor in the Sixers’ run to the conference semifinals.

On Thursday, the Sixers will have a chance to redeem themselves for their poor decision in the summer of 2008.

Many mock drafts have suggested that Baylor’s Perry Jones III will be available when the Sixers are on the clock at No. 15 overall.

If that is indeed the case, the Sixers cannot afford to pass on an athletic forward the way they did with Smith.

Jones’ game may still be a bit raw, but he has all of the tools to become a force at the professional level. A good fit with a young, speedy Sixer team, Jones has the ability to be an impact player for a team in search of some much needed frontcourt help.

Now 33-years-old, Brand and his unsightly contract may be on the way out this summer. Four years after his arrival in Philadelphia, the Sixers may be tempted to use their amnesty clause on Brand and the remaining $18.1 million on his contract (per Rotoworld.com).

With an established young corps led by Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, the Sixers have an opportunity to reshape the future of their franchise with their first round pick in this year’s NBA draft.

A 6’11” forward with a versatile skill set, Jones has a polished jump shot and great length. Although he may need to bulk up at the next level, Jones is the kind of player the Sixers have needed in the frontcourt for the last four years.

He may not be a safe pick, but Jones is a prospect that fans can get excited about.

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Perry Jones III’s Best- and Worst-Case NBA Player Comparison

The future is now, and the stakes are high.

The 2012 NBA draft is every franchise’s opportunity to grab the league’s next superstar, but history has proven that only a select few prospects ever reach their full potential.

Sure, Anthony Davis could be the next Hakeem Olajuwon. But he could also go down in history as the next great bust of the hoops world, alongside the Kwame Browns and Michael Olowokandis.

In the NBA, nothing is granted—everything is earned. 

In this Bleacher Report Productions series, we compare each 2012 NBA draft prospect to their best-case and worst-case pro counterparts, also offering predictions on how each incoming pro will pan out. 

Be sure to sound off and let us know what you think in the comments below. If you like what you see, click here for more from Bleacher Report Productions. 

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NBA Draft 2012: Perry Jones III Best and Worst-Case Pro-Player Comparison

The future is now, and the stakes are high.

The 2012 NBA draft is every franchise’s opportunity to grab the league’s next superstar, but history has proven that only a select few prospects ever reach their full potential.

Sure, Anthony Davis could be the next Hakeem Olajuwon. But he could also go down in history as the next great bust of the hoops world, alongside the Kwame Browns and Michael Olowokandis.

In the NBA, nothing is granted—everything is earned. 

In this Bleacher Report Productions series, we compare each 2012 NBA draft prospect to their best-case and worst-case pro counterparts, also offering predictions on how each incoming pro will pan out. 

Be sure to sound off and let us know what you think in the comments below. If you like what you see, click here for more from Bleacher Report Productions. 

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Lakers Rumors: Perry Jones III Would Be Perfect Fit in L.A.

The Los Angeles Lakers are looking to move into the first round of the upcoming NBA draft, according to Sam Amico of Fox Sports.

Amico reported the rumor via Twitter.

Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller are both long, athletic forwards who starred for Baylor last season and are likely to be first-round picks.

ESPN’s Chad Ford currently has Jones going at No. 19 to the Orlando Magic and Miller going at No. 24 to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his latest mock draft. 

Jones was the more productive of the pair, putting up 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds. Miller averaged 10.6 points and 4.9 rebounds. 

If the Lakers are going to give up players in order to get one of these prospects, it should be Jones.

He was measured at the combine at 6’11.25” with a wingspan of 7’1.75” and is a remarkable athlete.

Even at his size, he is smooth and explosive enough to play small forward, but he is also strong enough to play down low. He would instantly become the best athlete on the Lakers.

Concerns that have been raised over Jones include his lack of production in college and his incomplete skill set.  His athleticism is his only elite quality, as he does not have a reliable jump shot or any go-to post moves. 

However, the Lakers badly need athleticism, and he would be an huge upgrade to a second unit that was terrible last season. As HoopStats.com notes, the Lakers were dead last in bench scoring last season.

Jones would immediately bring excitement and energy to the Lakers’ second unit and has the potential to develop into a productive starter. 

He is the type of versatile athlete that can help the team out in multiple ways. His length and rebounding skills will help the team on the defensive end of the floor, and his speed can help the Lakers in transition. 

Jones is an ideal fit and the team would be wise to orchestrate a deal to move into the first round and draft him.

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Perry Jones III: Highlights, Analysis and Pro Projections

Perry Jones III is one of the most talented players in the NBA draft, but some feel he has underachieved.

The 6’11″ forward helped lead the Baylor Bears to a 30-8 record and an Elite Eight appearance this past season, but his critics were looking for more.

PJ3 decided to bypass his final two years at Baylor and made himself eligible for the NBA draft on April 10. He averaged 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game last season.

He has the ability to play three positions, but in the NBA his best position is small forward. I believe playing out of position is the biggest reason we didn’t see a more dominant PJ3 in college.

Here is a scouting report on Jones III that highlights his strengths and weaknesses.

(Height, weight and stats per statsheet.com)

 

Profile:

Height: 6’11″ 

Weight: 235 pounds 

School: Baylor

Date of Birth: September 24, 1991

Best NBA Position: Small Forward

College Stats: (Key Stats Underlined) 13.5 PPG, 30.7 MPG, 50 FG%, 30.3 3FG%, 69.6 FT%, 1.3 APG, 7.6 RPG, 0.6 BPG, 0.8 SPG

 

Skill Grades:

Athleticism - A

Size – A+

Intangibles – B-

Rebounding - B

Ball Handling – A

Defense - B

Shooting - A-

Passing – B+

Post Game - B

Basketball IQ – B+

Upside - A+

 

Strengths:

PJ3 handles the ball like a guard, but at 6’11″ he has the size to play power forward. Therein lies the problem, he is a perimeter player that was thrown into a post position at Baylor. If he is allowed to be a perimeter player, he’ll be at his best in the NBA.

He has a nice first step, good leaping ability and good vision. He has range out to the three-point line, but he needs to be more consistent there.

His combination of size, skills and athleticism is rare, and he could be a nightly matchup problem for opponents if used properly. As far as his physical ceiling goes, he is as skilled as any player in the draft, but he needs the right situation.

Take a look at the versatile PJ3 in action in this highlight reel:

 

Weaknesses:

This kid is not a No. 1 option, he is much more comfortable in a supportive role. Because of his size and immense talent, critics expect him to be the take-over-a-game type.

That simply doesn’t appear to be in his mental makeup.

With that said, it doesn’t mean he has no value. Every team needs a player that has tremendous versatility and plays off a superstar, that is who Jones III is. 

As a SF, his rebounding would be fine, but as a PF he doesn’t crash the boards like an ideal 4-man. He has solid footwork in the post, but he needs to get a little stronger to establish and maintain position. 

At times, he can be neutralised by stronger defenders. But again, as a perimeter player, some of these issues won’t be exposed.

 

NBA Player Comparison: 

Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom is one of the most talented players in the NBA, but he isn’t a true No. 1 option. He always put up nice numbers before joining the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, but in LA he found his comfort zone.

In his 12-year-career, Odom has averaged 14 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, and has demonstrated amazing versatility for a man that stands 6’10″. He has also been called an underachiever, and had his desire questioned.

The similarities between Jones III and Odom are there both in the physical and intangibly. But if Jones III can find a spot that allows him to play the type of role Odom played in LA, you’ll see the best of PJ3.

 

Draft Projection:

From No. 8 to No. 15

 

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