Can Damien Jones Repeat the Lakers Center Mold From the 2020 Championship Season?

Welcome to our lakers Season Preview Series! For the next several weeks, we’ll be writing every weekday column, breaking down our biggest questions about every player the Lakers asked this off-season. Today, we take a look at Damien Jones.

Damien Jones will have a trail of footprints to follow as he steps onto the floor for the Lakers this upcoming season.

No, they are not the arrogant ones who have been left with the name of the floors hanging in the ceilings. Instead, they belong to centers that have recently played for the team – some even related to Jones himself, who was left behind after his first stint in Los Angeles in 2021. These will serve as their roadmap for this year.

Asking the Lakers about your bouncy big is relatively simple: Be athletic, finish your chances around the cup and be a deterrent on defense.

How well he can perform these tasks in his biggest role to date will be the deciding factor if his return to L.A. was a success.

What is his best scenario?

Since the arrival of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers have experimented with deploying a variety of bigwigs behind their stars.

But after having the most success during his championship-winning season, he dropped out Kendra’s King Ghidora-esque Trio That lobs at a head spinning rate and caught the blocked shot, the Lakers have since tried to recapture that formula with mixed results.

Luckily for Jones, the team recently asked for a checklist of swimming skills from a 5-spot alignment with his strengths.

He’s a rangy, fluid athlete with good hands, and at just 27 years old, center position should provide the Lakers with a much-needed infusion of fresh feet. The average age of the last five centers of the squad, excluding Anthony Davis, is 31.5 years.

When looking at how Jones fared in certain areas on offense versus the team’s most recent center tandem of DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard, it becomes even more clear that his transition to a similar role should be a smooth one.

alex rules

As the graph above shows, Jones fared better across the board than the big guys he would replace. And notably, that superiority comes down to the same kinds of plays and shot attempts that are likely to be assigned to him. this upcoming campaign.

For more reference, according to The Beeball-Index “rim shot-making” The metric — a catch-all stat that measures a player’s ability to finish around the rim by taking into account the degree of difficulty and where the shot comes from — ranked Jones in the league’s 98th percentile last year. Howard and Jordan reached the 76th and 7th (!) percentiles respectively.

For the Lakers, the hope is that Jones continues to rise above, or at the very least, outperform his predecessors and be able to repeat the strongest season of his career in Sacramento last year.

Offensively, the combination of Jones’ athletic equipment and touch around the basket should flourish next to James’s play and Davis’ gravity. Whether it’s catching a roll, getting out of the dunker spot or throwing a rumble lob, Jones will have plenty of chances to show the right player for the job.

What is his worst case?

On paper, Jones perfectly fits the ideal of the big that the team has sought lately. However, as last season’s Lakers proved, whatever looks good on paper doesn’t always lead to success.

So far, most of Jones’ playing career has taken place in a low-role and low-stakes environment.

His brightest shine has come recently on a team of Kings that won just 30 games last season. Now a member of the Lakers team who has clear aspirations to be back in the title brawl picture, The amount of pressure on Jones would be exponentially greater than anything he faced in his professional career.

Beyond the bright spotlight, there’s also the question of how he adjusts from a physical standpoint to what will likely be his biggest role in the NBA. While it remains to be seen how Darwin plans to take out the Ham minutes, the recent injury history of Thomas Bryant and Anthony Davis suggests that Jones was given 56 games and 1017 minutes to go ahead of his career high. may be assigned the task of augmentation.

To outperform his predecessors isn’t the biggest task, but only time will tell if Jones is physically and mentally ready for it.

What is his most likely role in the team?

Like most role-playing players, Jones excels when he is only put in a position to do what he is best at. His list of strengths is short, but endearing, as he can both finish and elect at a high level.

Upon offense, Jones would likely serve as the team’s primary vertical threat. Jones will be responsible for catching lobs from the pick and roll, rim-running in the transition, and the occasional mismatched beater that James and the team’s guards can find over the top.

Jones is able to accomplish these things thanks to his cleverness. Despite being seven-foot, he navigates pockets of space well, can operate in tight quarters, and has a feathery touch that helps him capitalize on his opportunities when there is resistance at the rim.

In other instances, when force is the way to go, defenders must certainly notice his eagerness to serve up a poster at a moment’s notice.

On defense, Jones would be asked to shore up the paint and the Lakers were allowed 67% shooting on the rim last season (fifth worst) Similar to his strength on offense, Jones relies on a few specific physical devices to make his impact felt.

His sharp feet help him to field as well as stay attached to the ball. He navigates pick-and-roll well from a drop or at the level of a ball-handler. And his length (7’4 wingspan) proved an effective asset last season when going straight up or contesting the backline.

Advanced metrics paint a similar picture:

the bball-index

Beyond its tangible equipment, Jones’ motor should also be a welcome addition to a team He hitherto often played at snail’s pace and seemed unable to hang on to his opposition on a purely athletic or sheer desire level.

The defense is as mental as it is physical, and Jones has shown the brilliance of having both.

Although he wasn’t the busiest addition off-season, Jones could very well be one of the team’s most important swing players.

If he can continue to improve while proving that he can thrive within a bigger opportunity, he should easily beat the minimum contract he signed. And if he doesn’t, the Lakers still have a big enough safety net in the form of both Bryant and Davis when they need slotting at the 5-spot to save.

Jones fortunately already has a compass and altimeter to help him in his flight to success.

tasked with protecting the skies from rim-bound bogies And only he can reach by falling down the pass, Damien Jones is poised to breathe life back to center position – for the Lakers – frozen for far too long.

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