Matt Jones has struggled this season. With several of the marquee freshmen missing time due to injury early in the season, the veterans were asked to step up. Luke Kennard and Amile Jefferson did but Jones didn’t manage to do so, failing to show significant development to his skill-set.
Grayson Allen had a hard time running point early last season and Derryck Thornton and Frank Jackson were considered not ready to assume such a role right away, so the coaching staff tasked Jones with being the caretaker at that position for about a year now.
And in that role as a 3D point guard who supplements wingmen with heavy usages, Jones has shown some potential of maybe making to the NBA as one of those undrafted free agents coaches fall in love with in training camp.
As a pure wing, his physical profile is unimpressive and his skill level isn’t much. He has decent size for the position but his combination of below average length and athleticism make it hard to imagine him becoming any more than a zero defender at best and his playing would be entirely dependent on his three-point shot.
As a big six-foot-five point guard, even as one who isn’t tasked with creating against a set defense on a consistent basis, Jones needs to become a more viable threat running pick-and-roll. Given the nature of Duke’s offense, the fact they rarely put him in that position probably speaks to his lack of improvement in this area but it’s mostly unclear if he could do it. His defense on smaller players is the reason why Jones might be worth a longer look, though.
GUARDING SMALLER PLAYERS
Jones is 22 years old and age difference is always something to be aware of regarding college players. He is more physically developed than most of the guys he plays against but given he’s often matched up on generally quicker types, I think what Jones has shown defending smaller players should earn him at least a reasonable chance of proving it against a higher level of competition.
To begin with, if his man gives the ball up before getting it back later in the possession rather than just bring it up the court, Jones stays on a stance in the weak-side and works hard in ball denial.
Against the pick-and-roll, he’s proven able to navigate over screens and beat his man to the spot. When they get downhill, Jones’ six-foot-seven wingspan is more of an asset contesting shots and deflecting passes tracking them from behind.
In individual defense, has also showcased adequate lateral quickness to stay in front, strength (210-pound frame) to contain dribble penetration through contact and reach to pick pockets – averaging 2.2 steals per 40 minutes so far this season, according to basketball-reference.
Defending smaller players on the ball is where Jones’ total value lies on this end because as a weak-side defender, he lacks athleticism to make an impact. Jones is disciplined, looking to run spot-up shooters off the three-point line on closeouts and making rotations to draw a few charges, but lacks vertical explosion to make plays at the rim in help defense, with marginal contributions through blocks and defensive rebounds.
His offense is what’s expected to hold him short of the NBA, though.
His only real method of contributing is via the three-point shot, as 57% of his attempts have been three-pointers over the last two-and-a-half years. He’s struggled in 2016-2017, hitting only 32.9% of his 70 tries from beyond the arc, but nailed 40% of his 292 such looks the previous two seasons.
Jones has only shown to be the sort of spot-up gunner who can only add gravity away from the ball, though, and not the most valuable type who can sprint to the ball on dribble hand-offs or come off staggered screens. His release is not that dynamic and he lets it go from a low point, meaning he’s mostly an open-shot shooter.
Jones can escape a closeout and launch one-, two-dribble pull-ups or a decent-looking floater. He’s not particularly great at those but has posted credible percentages; hitting 40% of his two-point jumpers this season and 37.2% over the previous two – according to hoop-math.
Jones can make simple reads on the move and identify shooters spot-up on the strong-side or big men at the dunker’s spot when he sucks in the defense but has never shown much in terms of making passes across his body to the opposite end of the court or lobbying in traffic to big men diving to the basket, assisting on just 10.5% of Duke’s scores when he’s been on the floor.
Jones is not any sort of a threat to get all the way to the basket and score against rim protectors, though. He lacks vertical explosion elevating out of one foot in a crowd, can’t hang or adjust his body in the air and doesn’t have enough length for reverses or extended finishes. Jones has shot 50% at the basket this season, after converting just 39.7% of such looks last season and 51.7% the season before. After earning fewer than two foul shots per 40 minutes over the last two seasons, that number is even worse (0.9) in this one.
 Up until last night’s game, when he was benched in order for Duke to return to a two-big look with Harry Giles in the starting lineup
 Draft Express does not rank him anywhere in its 2017 board
 Doesn’t hurt but doesn’t help
 Which he’s done a lot more this season
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara