Colby Jones’ Summer League has further substantiated the viewpoint that the Kings had a spectacular draft as the 34th overall pick looked far more like a first round selection than a second rounder.
As a first year player, Jones is far from perfect and will have to really bring his best to get consistent minutes this season. That last point isn’t an indictment of the rookie; rather, it’s due to the fact the Kings have several bodies to command time at the guard and wing positions.
Even with the challenge, Jones certainly helped his cause. What he showed in Summer League lends credence to the notion that the Xavier product could possibly make a push to earn significant time in the rotation.
On both ends of the floor, Sacramento’s feature draft pick demonstrated how he has a lot of tools that can make a considerable difference in the NBA.
So let’s dive into Colby Jones’ Summer League…
The basis for Jones’ whole game, and what may be the most appealing, could very well be his hustle. It didn’t matter if he looked comfortable or not and it didn’t matter if he was on or not, he never ceased to provide the maximum amount of effort he could muster.
As was the case in college, Jones gave it his all in every facet. Sacramento obviously liked what he did in transition at Xavier, and it was no surprise that his intent on pushing the ball up the floor in uptempo fashion looked perfectly compatible to Mike Brown’s style.
At various points, he zipped into action to impact the glass, he labored to force a turnover, and he hit the deck for a loose ball.
Most illustrative was the fact he had no problem putting his body on the line. In the first game, he went all out to try and throw down a put back only to crash to the floor with a hard fall. And his Summer League ended slightly early because he fearlessly went up for a transition dunk that resulted in an even nastier fall.
His output of effort appears to be relentless.
Aside from that, one of the most satisfying characteristics of the 34th pick’s showing was his defense. He was consistently impressive on that end.
On-ball, Jones moved his feet well and kept his hands high. He appeared highly proficient at just staying with his man and getting up a good contest, and most strikingly, he did so without fouling. In Vegas, he averaged just 1.6 fouls per 36 minutes.
But more than just his scrappiness and fundamentals, Jones showed an important display of strength. He was described as strong for his size coming out of school, and there were a few moments where he displayed that against bigger players. In fact, at one point, he easily handled the physicality of Kobe Brown on a drive to the basket. (As a note to readers, Brown is a 6’8″, 250-pounder while Jones is 6’6″, 199 lbs.)
Off-ball, he showed adequate awareness as to where to rotate and when to provide help. He was willingly active and had no qualm with stepping up to get in front of an offensive player. And in doing these things, his execution of the fundamentals was solid.
Another point from his draft profiles was how adept he is at snaking through and around screens to stay with his man. If viewers watched no one but Jones in these summer games, they could count multiple times a game where this happened.
Similar to the all-around defense he showed, there were plenty of moments where Jones would provide a critical effort on the glass. He was a great rebounder from the perimeter in college and that translated into his Summer League play.
Shifting over to the offensive end, Jones exhibited further promise.
What perhaps catches most viewers’ eyes is the kid’s finishing ability. Whether it’s his right or left hand, he frequently converts his looks close to the rim. And of course, his most effective weapon is his floater as his smooth touch looks highly refined on that shot.
As one of the primary ball handlers this summer, the floater came in handy as he used pick-and-roll’s, probed, and maneuvered to the basket. His reading of the floor with the ball in his hands and his commendable patience is palpable on many of his made floaters. It’s something to lean on; he can eat up any space given to him in the close to mid-range area. As seen in the first summer contest, he was able to remain poised and rely on it when pressure kicked up.
Plus, he at times demonstrated levels of aggressive decisiveness on his drives with some drops of flashy skill thrown in there as well.
Overall, Jones showed a lot of promise with the ball in his hands. He may not earn much of those responsibilities this season with Fox, Sabonis, Monk, Mitchell, and others there, but the vision and feel he demonstrated makes for a promising future.
But that’s not going to hinder his potential effect in his first season. Without the ball, Jones is mindful and vigilant. He had some great cuts that resulted in buckets as his understanding of positioning and movement appeared strong. Plus, he was able to relocate on the perimeter as well for open jumpers.
However, while Jones showed his shooting upside, there were concerns. In 6 summer games, he hit 27.6% of his 29 three-point attempts. Coming out of college, shooting was not a consistent feature; he had a massive improvement in his final season with a 37.8% clip after making just 30.3% of his outside looks in his Freshman and Sophomore years.
Given it’s Summer League, this wouldn’t typically be a big concern, but the fact Jones got just 41.7% of his free throws to fall in his 6 games, it does become something worth highlighting. Free throw shooting can be a telling litmus test for overall shooting touch and Jones shot 67.9% from the line in three college seasons, so his struggles in Summer League are worthy of attention because it pertains to his shooting as a whole.
Being a real catch-and-shoot threat and floor spacer will be huge in terms of play time beside De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, so shooting’s obviously important.
While this next thing seems less concerning because it’s likely to be ironed out with experience, another unsavory tendency of Colby Jones this summer was his habit of turning the ball over when looking to create for others. This would happen both in the full and the half court.
As noted, he was also aggressive and decisive at other times, so he’s got to work on balancing out his game and sharpen his ultimate choice. He wasn’t making flat out dumb mistakes, but one could tell he needs a little more time adjusting his processing ability to a faster iteration of the game.
Really, outside of that and a few blunders that can be expected of almost any rookie, Colby Jones’ performance this summer was overwhelmingly positive.
That isn’t to say he blew everyone out of the water, but he checked the necessary boxes relative to his place among the roster. In the simplest terms, Jones is equipped with a baseline of a solid two-way skillset that he’ll be able to build upon.
The extent to which he’s utilized and given rotational minutes is hard to tell here in July. It’s certain that he won’t be handed anything for free and the competition to get minutes behind guys like Malik Monk, Kevin Huerter, Chris Duarte, and others may make it hard for him to be a nightly guy.
Still, Colby Jones will be able to make a sound argument for himself. And due to the positive signs this summer, it seems more true now than three weeks ago that his future in the league will be bright in the long run.