Alabama's Herbert Jones is the No. 35 pick in NBA Draft. Here's what the Pelicans are getting

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama basketball forward Herbert Jones, who grew up in west Alabama and went on to become the SEC Player of the Year and SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the Crimson Tide's 2020-21 SEC championship season, was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans in the second round of the NBA Draft on Thursday night.

Jones, the No. 35 overall pick, averaged 11.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks in his senior season and was generally regarded as one of the nation’s top defenders and a vastly improved ball handler. He will join former Tide teammate Kira Lewis Jr. in New Orleans. 

Jones, who is from Greensboro and played at two Hale County high schools in his career (Sunshine and Hale County), was a fan favorite throughout his Alabama career, partly for his local roots but far more for his tenacity and leadership on the court.

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His one-handed free throws to help beat LSU while playing with a broken left wrist in 2020 became an iconic Alabama basketball image. 

Here's what the Pelicans are getting in Jones. 

The positives 

Mar 2, 2021; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Herbert Jones (1) plays defense against Auburn Tigers during the second half at Coleman Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

First, there’s that defense.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot wingspan, Jones has shown the ability to guard all five positions. Alabama's Nate Oats called Jones “the best defensive player I’ve ever coached,” adding, “he has guarded guys like Trae Young, other guys who are projected to go high in this draft, and he’s been successful against all of them. He can block shots, guard the perimeter, guard the pick-and-roll and get his hands on balls in the passing lanes.”

While the defensive prowess is universally recognized, Jones made significant strides as an offensive player as a senior, especially as a passer and facilitator for Alabama’s more prolific shooters.

The concerns 

Tennessee's Santiago Vescovi (25) defends against Alabama's Herbert Jones (1) in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Saturday, March 13, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

For the first three years of his Alabama career, Jones was simply not a good shooter, either from 3-point range or from the foul line, a fact that might well have kept Jones from making an early exit for the draft.

His improvement as a senior was significant but he’s never going to be the next Steph Curry or Devin Booker. What New Orleans had to decide is whether his plus-rating in almost every other phase of the game was enough to make him valuable at the No. 35 spot. 

Final thoughts 

Alabama Crimson Tide forward Herbert Jones (1) dunks against Maryland during the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Monday, March 22, 2021, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. Mandatory Credit: Michael Caterina/IndyStar via USA TODAY Sports

Jones will be an asset to the Pelicans simply on intangibles. He is a relentless worker, as shown by his senior year improvement at Alabama. His length and athleticism are a bonus.