In a quiet move lacking gusto and notoriety, the Clippers signed free agent big man Solomon Jones to a one-year non-guarenteed deal, worth around $1 million. The Clippers’ top target, Joel Przybilla, hasn’t indicated whether or not he’ll return to the NBA anytime soon. So instead, the Clippers added a makeshift player.
For all intents and purposes, Jones is a center. Not only was he more productive at the position last year, but also the Clippers already have enough players at the power forward position (Blake Griffin, Reggie Evans, Ryan Gomes, Brian Cook and Trey Thompkins). Jones has bounced around the league as a second round player and fourth or fifth big man, a role that he’ll likely occupy in L.A. (although with Evans out, he might be the first big off the bench).
Put bluntly, Jones is one of the worst offensive players in the league and is a below-average rebounder. His offensive repertoire consists of dives and cuts off the ball, put-backs and the occasional midrange jumper (which he tends to take a little too much, resulting in his atrocious shooting percentages). He can’t dribble, can’t pass and can’t create offense for himself. While he’s talented defensively, most advanced stats do not support that claim.
However, according to Synergy Sports, Jones ranked fourth in the NBA in post defense last season. Yes, you read that correctly – fourth. Overall, he ranked 24th in Points Per Possession, a solid indicator that teams don’t score many baskets when he’s on the floor. His impact defensively is clear just by watching a few possessions of last year’s game film.
Take Jones off the block, though, and you’ll have problems. Despite having impressive athleticism and foot speed, Jones isn’t fast in short bursts. If switched onto a quicker guard, the guard normally ends up with either an open jumper or a blow-by into the paint. That comes into play when guarding quicker big men, too.
His undeniable weakness, more so than his inability to play solid defense outside of the paint, is his lack of strength and girth. Against most big men — mainly centers — he gives up at least 20-30 lbs. and an inch or two (listed at 6-foot-10 and 230 lbs., but is 6-foot-8 and 3/4 without shoes on and likely closer to 220 lbs.).
An example would be the three big men he struggled defending the most last year — Dwight Howard, Elton Brand and DeMarcus Cousins. Those are three of the biggest players in the league, both strength- and size-wise. In most cases, they were able to get good post position and use their bodies to pin Jones or spin off of him for an easy lay-up or open hook shot. While he tends to keep his arms straight up to contest post moves, Jones is easily outsmarted by a crafty post player and often gets into foul trouble.
Against jump-shooting big men, or players that don’t have a size advantage on him, Jones thrives. His 7-foot-4 inch wingspan – longer than the likes of notable Stretch Armstrongs Chris Bosh, Brandon Wright and Tyrus Thomas – allows him to contest almost every shot within sight. Throw in his 39-inch vertical and most of Jones’ opponents are forced overarch their shots or adjust them mid-air, resulting in many missed chippies. He’s not a great shot-blocker, but contesting and altering shots may be just as valuable.
Notwithstanding his offensive ineptness, Jones immediately becomes the Clippers’ second-best defender down low. In fact, he’s leaps and bounds ahead of anyone else not named DeAndre Jordan. Pair him with Reggie Evans and you have a devastating combo. They won’t score much — if at all — but they’ll rebound, play hard-nose basketball and protect the paint.
Jones will play 10-15 minutes per night and aide the team by taking away minutes from Brian Cook (he can’t be much worse, if at all). Don’t expect too much from him, but at the same time, don’t belittle his capabilities. If he underperforms, he’ll be let go for nothing. It’s a low-risk, high-reward move. The glam of Lob City needs some grit. If anything, trust Neil Olshey.