Kai Jones is a freakish athlete standing (nearly) 7 feet tall that runs the floor with the grace of a gazelle and hammers down dunks with the ferocity of a lion. If you’re into energy bigs that can run the floor and do some thrilling things on the basketball court, then Kai Jones is for you.
Kai Jones– F/C, 6’11″, 218 lbs., Texas, (20 years old).
Offensive role: Rim runner/Energy Big
Defensive role: Versatile Rim Protector/Event Creator
NBA projected role: Rotation player, starter upside.
Swing factor: Shot + Offensive consistency
ESPN 2021 Big Board: 16th
My general range: Late Lotto/Mid 1st (12-20)
*stats as of 2/24
- BPM: 7.1
- TS%: 64.8
- BLK%: 3.4
- STL%: 2.4
- FTR: 48.0%
This sequence is downright fun. Kai Jones is fun. The upside flashes are very real, folks.
What the actual hell is this sequence from Kai Jones pic.twitter.com/eEmPZ5MvWf
— Henry Ward (@henrywward) February 16, 2021
The main appeal to his game offensively is his ability to run the floor in transition, and also serve as a rim runner in the half court. His footwork and balance has improved with added strength and gaining those valuable freshman reps, especially in the interior.
Let’s not confuse ourselves with what he is now: a high-upside project. The flashes are much more consistent now than they had been his freshman year, and some of what he’s capable of doing is masked by a very deep (and good) top 15 Texas team.
Here is a picturesque example of his ability to run the floor. Grabs the rebound, makes the outlet, then runs like a madman, beating everyone, then BANG.
Here he shows a glimpse of his cutting ability, as he starts in the corner and makes a purposeful cut to the middle of the floor. He doesn’t rush on the catch, makes a power dribble, clears space, then uses a pump fake to get the defenders in the air and powers it through for the and-one slam.
This is the skill that can take him from being a decently productive big, to a high-level impact player at the next level.
His shooting numbers have improved in every single category from his freshman to his sophomore season on a higher volume, so the progress is encouraging. There have even been the occasional step-back or off-the-dribble jumper flashes sprinkled in, which you simply cannot ignore.
The catch-and-shoot jumper will be the swing skill for him as mentioned above. If he can get the defense to respect him on the perimeter then the offensive possibilities are endless if he’s your rim-running, floor-spacing small-ball five.
Attacking the rim
While Jones doesn’t have what you’d call a “tight” handle, he is fairly fluid for his size when dribbling with space. He can successfully attack the rim off overly ambitious closeouts or when given too much space while the defense is rotating.
Here he baits the (slower) defender into closing out for a split second, and as soon as he takes a leap forward he attacks, using his speed and length to finish over the 6’10” McCormick.
Kai is an event creator on the defensive end– whether it’s meeting someone at the rim for a rejection, or anticipating a cross court pass and intercepting it– he gets the job done in an impactful way. There must be some improvement with the consistency of his help-side or off-ball rotations, but when engaged he just simply makes sh*t happen to put it bluntly.
Here’s an awesome defensive read by Jones, anticipating the pass after his teammate (Sims) is a few steps slow to recover. That is some cornerback level of awareness and activity from the sophomore.
Jones moves well for his size laterally and when you couple that with his size/length it makes him an exciting shot blocker. Timing is important, but what goes into timing is understanding how to use your body and depth perception. Being long and tall can be meaningless if you don’t know how to functionally harness it. Kai Jones does.
Even when he gets beat by a step, he uses the aforementioned skills to perfectly time his leaps, as illustrated below.
Role/Fit in the NBA
Jones being used as a hybrid big in the mold of Christian Wood or Jerami Grant where you can play him alongside a big or as the occasional small-ball five would be my ideal role for him. Getting him in the right system (typical for any raw big) is important towards his development as he may take a few years to put everything together.
Keep an eye out for Texas in The Big Dance, they have a couple first round prospects in Greg Brown and Kai Jones, plus some exciting guard play.
Here are five teams I’d enjoy his fit on in both the short and long-term:
- Toronto Raptors
- Denver Nuggets
- Boston Celtics
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Charlotte Hornets
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Categories: NBA Draft