Discover more from No Ceilings
Kam Jones: The Golden Eagle Has Landed
Marquette's star guard wants you to know that he is ready. You should be too.
The Golden Eagle Has Landed
It should come as no surprise to anyone that I am writing about Kam Jones. I kicked off my “Rescoutables” series in September, where I wrote about players who stood out most to me upon rewatching their film. The first part of that series covered backcourt players, and Kam Jones was one of the guards whose film aged the best to me. Jones, listed by Marquette at 6’5”, went under the radar as an off-guard, as he played off of Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Oso Ighodaro, and Tyler Kolek in more of a supporting role.
Even still, he averaged 15.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, and 1.4 SPG in just under 30 MPG. Jones’s ability to space out the defense, run off the playmaking Ighodaro, and get up the court gave the Golden Eagles so much offensive versatility last season. With the departure of “OMP” to the Mavericks via the draft, it would have been easy to assume that Kam would slide into a bigger role—perhaps as the third option.
But one (namely, I) might argue that Jones has been Marquette’s best player in the early going. After the first three games of the season, Kam has averaged 19.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 3.0 APG, and 2.0 SPG. While it is impressive his numbers have jumped, it’s even more impressive they have improved while his minutes have gone down by over four per game. That’s with improved efficiency in his field goal percentage (52.6%), three-point percentage (47.6%), and free-throw percentage (72.7%).
Let’s take a look at what has made Jones special.
It may seem premature to look at the numbers after a handful of games, but it’s important to look at how the growth has taken place. Establishing a baseline is fruitful for the short and the long term.
Minutes Percentage - 63.3
BPM - 18.2
Offensive Rating - 141.5
Usage Percentage - 26.2
Effective Field Goal Percentage - 65.8
True Shooting Percentage - 67.1
Offensive Rebounding Percentage - 1.5
Defensive Rebounding Percentage - 15.8
Assist Percentage - 22.1
Turnover Percentage - 2.8
Assist : Turnover- 9.0
Block Percentage - 0.0
Steals Percentage - 4.4
Free Throw Rate - 28.9
Dunks - 0
Two Point Percentage - 58.8 (10/17)
Three Point Percentage - 47.6 (10/21)
A ton to unpack here, and I’ll begin with the concerns. No dunks and no blocks equals no “blunks”—a term coined as an indicator of athleticism and the type of shots a player can settle for. If you were to look at this one metric, concerns of athleticism may be warranted. Couple the blunks with the free throw rate, and you may already be painting a picture in your head of a shot chucker. We’ll address this in the film breakdown later, but the numbers can tilt the perception in a less-than-favorable way.
On the positive side, Jones has looked amazing in a number of ways. The fact that Jones has made just as many threes as he has made twos points to a multi-level scorer. Not only has he made a similar amount of both, but he is close to 50% in doing so. But he’s always been a shooter, right? How about the improvements as a decision-maker?
With an increase in usage by almost 5%, Jones has seen his assist to turnover rate skyrocket from 2.0 to 9.0! It’s one thing to be a high-usage shooter, but to be a high-usage, well-rounded offensive playmaker is something else entirely. That’s what Jones has shown thus far.
Defensively, Jones posted a modest 2.7 steals percentage last season. This year, he’s up to 4.4. The rebounding isn’t spectacular, but it also isn’t a detriment. While rebounding isn’t the most exciting aspect of the game to follow, those numbers typically translate and serve as a good indicator as to who is a pro and who isn’t for all positions. Knowing this, it’s good to see that Kam is doing his part on the glass, even if the numbers aren’t earth-shattering.
This season, Kam is one of only 12 players in college hoops who have posted:
Minutes Percentage- At least 60
Usage Percentage- At least 25
True Shooting Percentage- At least 65
Assist Percentage- At least 20
Steal Percentage- At least 2
Three Point Percentage- At least 40
What a collection of talent. It’s worth noting teammate Tyler Kolek is also on this list and has had a tremendous start to the season as well. You may also notice the recently-discussed PJ Hall is on this list as the lone big man.
For a player who seemed like he was more in the background on Marquette for talent evaluators, Kam Jones led Marquette in scoring last season with a smaller usage percentage. He graded out in the 92nd percentile (Excellent) on almost 500 offensive possessions. This season, Jones is in the 92nd percentile (Excellent) in overall offense yet again, and is leading a talented Marquette squad in scoring. His ability to get the ball into the hoop at different levels is going to be the major selling point to his stock, so let’s dive in.
Kam is going to draw people in because of his shooting. He ranks in the 83rd percentile (Very Good) on his jumpers this season, with jump shots accounting for 40% of his shot diet. With these shots accounting for so much of his offense, it’s good to know he’s shooting over 43% on them.
For a scorer like Jones, it’s important to be able to get shots up in a variety of ways. In this clip, we see Kam doing a little bit of shot-making by himself. The possession starts with only nine seconds remaining. Our guy starts off away from the inbound, then runs off two screens to get open. When Kam gets the rock, he is immediately met by his defender. He faces off with seven seconds left on the clock. There isn’t any action happening, save a teammate setting a screen to his left, but there is no attempt from anyone else to get open.
Instead of forcing a bad pass—and instead of dribbling into more defenders—Kam gets his shot off from deep where he stands. This type of difficult shot isn’t unique for him to take and convert. Jones’ lefty jumper doesn’t take long to get off—it doesn’t require much room for him to be confident in pulling the trigger. While there can be a certain type of stigma that comes from seeing a guard take a shot like this, Jones doesn’t demand the ball just to pound the air out of it.
This possession here shows how Kam can do what the NBA asks of all guards when they make the jump into the pros: work off bigger creators. Oso Ighodaro gets the ball toward the beginning of the play. He does a fantastic job of keeping his dribble alive and putting pressure on the defense.
One of the simplest truths that exists within effectiveness is the appropriate use of pressure and gravity. The pressure Ighodaro applies forces the defense to converge on him. The result is the defense leaving a career 37% three-point shooter wide open. Kam will punish any team that would dare to deny him of his due respect.
Movement shooting is at a premium in the NBA, and being able to diversify a shot profile with movement shooting can set a prospect apart from their peers in a big way. Kam and Oso are doing some great work here, but Stevie Mitchell also gets involved in this play. Jones finds Oso above the free-throw line. What he does next is so subtle, but so incredible.
Kam makes a hard step to the screen set by Stevie on the wing, which gets the defense’s attention. His shooting gravity attracts attention all over the floor, so the defender sticking with Kam is warranted, but our guy uses that to his advantage. After he sells the defender on the screen, Jones goes for the handoff from Ighodaro. By using his teammates to create openings, Kam is able to run himself open and knock down his beautiful shot.
At the end of Marquette’s season, Kam ended up finishing in the 89th percentile (Excellent) in shots around the rim on 125 possessions. About 29% of his total shots came from that range. He’s on pace for even better results at the basket this season. Jones is in the 98th percentile scoring at the rim this year, having scored on nine of his ten possessions there.
One thing that I love about the attempts Kam is taking at the rim, is the fact that he is doing it in the halfcourt. Within the halfcourt, he ranks in the 91st percentile (Excellent) and it’s because of plays like this. Kam shows off his ability to run a pick and roll here, as Oso sets the screen on Jones’ left. Kam is confident enough to use this pick to penetrate the inside of the defense. The congestion doesn’t deter him from looking to apply pressure.
Take a look at who Kam is attacking on this play. Senior big man Coleman Hawkins is dropped back to reject our guy here, but Kam accepts the challenge. Jones goes to the left and lays in a high arcing shot that kisses off the glass. Hawkins, who posted a block percentage of 3.6 last season, is posting a block percentage of 4.8 this year, but couldn’t turn away Kam.
If the physicality of the last play is in question, we get to see Kam get up into Coleman on this possession. Kam gets another screen and goes back into the inside of the defense—this time with his right hand. He gets Hawkins to play up on him as he drives to the paint, but opts to stop, spin, and finish strong around the larger Hawkins. The compliment of finishing ability with the jumper does wonders for Jones’ draft stock.
For the Golden Eagles last season, Kam was third on the team in assists behind Kolek and Ighodaro—finishing with 72 assists in total. As of now, he has tied for second place in total assists (9), with only one turnover on the year. His improved decision-making has not only given him the best assist-to-turnover on the team, but he is fifth in college hoops of players with a minutes percentage of at least 60.
Kam being able to move the ball along to the right player is a skill that he is in the process of displaying for the second consecutive season. With plays like this one, it’s not hard to see why Jones is boasting an assist percentage over 22. Being able to score on hand-offs and pick-and-rolls is one thing, but it’s much more impressive when you can create for others out of those sets as well. In this play against Rider, we see the patented Kam/Oso two-man game at work. Going from posting up to passing to Oso, Kam eventually gets a pick to run off of.
The evaluation for guards making the NBA has become more complex over the past few seasons. Recently, we’ve seen Scoot Henderson struggle to find his footing while being one of the better guard prospects many have scouted in quite some time. On the opposite end of that spectrum, Marcus Sasser is making a real name for himself despite being “undersized” and an older prospect drafted late in the first round.
Oftentimes, the archetype evaluators think NBA teams want forces them to fit square pegs into round holes. Instead of taking Marcus Sasser over players like Kobe Bufkin and Jalen Hood-Schifino, front offices opted to squint really hard at these long, jumbo creators. Sure, if those big facilitators hit it can be franchise-altering, but the hit rate of these floor-spacing guards is undeniable.
That is what Kam Jones is: a floor-spacing guard. His shot is a real weapon, but he has the ancillary skills to keep defenses honest. His continued desire to improve his playmaking is what has set an early tone to thus far. He isn’t a chucker; he makes tough shots. He isn’t selfish; he has the trust of his teammates. He isn’t afraid to take the rock inside; he finishes well, and is a knockdown shooter. He isn’t coming out of nowhere; the signs have been there for a while. Kam Jones is hitting his stride and is telling the world he is ready. The Golden Eagle has landed.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter: StephenGHoops
Catch the Draft Sickos show LIVE on the No Ceilings NBA channel:
REMEMBER, you can always find me and the rest of the No Ceilings crew on the No Ceilings NBA Draft Podcast feed: