Restricted free agents with CAA connections: Damian Jones
Damian Jones, drafted 30th overall in 2016, spent his first three seasons riding the bench while winning two championships with the Golden State Warriors. He started 22 of the first 24 games of the 2018-19 season, replacing the injured DeMarcus Cousins. However, a torn left pectoral muscle ruled him out for the remainder of the season. He returned for the Western Conference Finals, but only played 18 minutes in the playoffs.
In what now seems as a blessing in disguise, the Warriors traded Jones to the Atlanta Hawks for Omari Spellman. Jones finally received consistent minutes for the first time in his career, playing in 55 games before the shutdown. He only averaged 16.1 minutes/game and showed a slight bit of what he might be capable of in the NBA.
Through his first three seasons, Jones has been a lesser talented version of Mitchell Robinson. He quickly became one of Trae Young’s most reliable finishers around the paint, whether it’s off the pick-and-roll or dribble penetration. Jones shot 76% from 0-3 ft this season, albeit on very low usage. Just like Mitch, Jones offered almost nothing outside of finishing around the rim on the offensive end. Unlike Mitch, Jones displayed many shortcomings on defense, although most of that can be attributed to the other players on the roster. It’s hard to become a passable defender when Trae Young’s the worst defender in the league.
Jones is a player that a team would need to make a significant investment in to develop into an effective big man. He’s very raw both athletically and from a basketball IQ standpoint. Expectations of producing as a first round pick resulted in a major disappointment.
Big men are known to take a long time to develop. Jones might just need time, but he has the physical gifts to be decent in this league. If the Knicks want to develop a strong basketball culture, the team must develop a propensity to develop their homegrown players and unleash untapped potential from underutilized free agents. Maybe it means signing Jones and having him develop both on the NBA roster and with the Westchester Knicks. It might be worth the gamble.