Given all the talent on the New Orleans Pelicans, it may be easy to lose Herbert Jones in the mix. But Jones quickly became a starter for the Pelicans last season and ingrained himself as part of the team's rotation as the season progressed. Now, he appears set to have an even bigger role this season as the Pelicans look to make a jump up the standings in the Western Conference.
Herbert Jones' strong defensive play is modeled after these two players
Jones didn't have many expectations last season as a second-round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. But he ended up forcing his way into the lineup, thanks in large part to his strong defensive play. Jones held his own on offense, but it's clear he kept his spot in the lineup because of his contributions on the defensive side of the ball.
The Pelicans will be looking for more of the same from Jones this season, as he has remained in the starting lineup despite the return of Zion Williamson at power forward. Once again, it's Jones' defense helping him keep his starting role heading into the season. When asked about his defense, Jones singled out Tony Allen and Kawhi Leonard as two players he watched play and modeled his defensive game after, which isn't surprising considering the strong start to his career.
"I watched a ton of Tony Allen and some of Kawhi Leonard. I think my defense and how I see the game is something where I've tried to watch safeties in the NFL. Ed Reed and Kam Chancellor, who was long and covered so much ground. I just tried to figure out how they were able to read and react to plays on that side of the field. I felt like if I could take pieces from their mentality, then I could roam around on the basketball court fairly easily." Herbert Jones, HoopsHype
Herbert Jones chose two good players to watch play on the defensive side of the court
Jones' love for good defense is clearly seen here by mentioning Allen and Leonard. Allen was never a great offensive player throughout his career, but he stayed on the court thanks to his pesky defensive play. On the other hand, Leonard is a dynamic defender who is also a superb offensive player. He's the blueprint for what wing players like Jones strive to become in the NBA nowadays.
At this point, Jones is closely related to Allen as a player. Jones is much taller than Allen, but his defensive game helps him stay on the court in a similar manner as Allen. Jones is probably a better offensive player, though, and his potential on that side of the floor is quite high. With Leonard, Jones is likely hoping he can fine-tune his offensive game over time as Leonard did.
Given that Jones is playing alongside guys like Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and CJ McCollum, he will never be the top option on the Pelicans' offense. But if he continues to play strong defense, that won't matter. Jones has already had a strong start to his career, and he will look to continue to improve throughout the 2022-23 season.