Prior to the NBA Draft Lottery it was only logical for the Toronto Raptors to be keeping tabs on players like Kai Jones. Back then, the Raptors were expecting to have a middle-of-the-pack lottery pick and Texas’ 6-foot-11 center Jones seemed like an ideal pick for Toronto. But now, even after the move up to No. 4, Toronto is still doing its due diligence on Jones who they interviewed at the NBA combine.
Jones is a high-upside, versatile, but very raw center who started in just four of Texas’ games last season. He’s a former four-star prospect who didn’t make much of an impact in his freshman season but began garnering some attention toward the end of his sophomore season with the Longhorns. He averaged 8.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and almost a block per game while shooting 58% from the floor and 38% on 1.2 three-pointers per game.
“His range starts in the late lottery and runs into the teens,” Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo wrote. “He has unique mobility for his size and an expanding offensive game, but was never an especially consistent producer at Texas and will still be very much a project for whoever drafts him. Jones needs to get a lot stronger in order to contribute much in the paint, but his ability to protect the rim and potentially space the floor from the frontcourt creates a clear blueprint for eventual success.”
The big question about Jones is his ability to expand his role and be a difference-maker at the NBA level. He ranked in the 86th and 83rd percentile in transition scoring and half-court offense, according to Synergy, but both of those came in very small sample sizes. On the defensive end, he was an above-average defender, according to Synergy, but again, he wasn’t asked to do very much for Texas last year.
All that being said, Jones has all the tools to be an impact player with a little bit more development. It would be shocking if Toronto selected him at No. 4, but if the Raptors have fallen in love with Jones’ potential it’s possible they’d be interested in trading down a few picks with a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder or Orlando Magic to add multiple first-round picks. Alternatively, Toronto might be looking at pairing their second-round choices with another asset to move up in the draft and nab two lottery pick players for next season.