Instead of giving my opinion of players performances this season, I thought I'd ask the players themselves to assess particular areas of their game. Here is what James Jones had to say, along with some various pertinent quantifiables.
Defense: "Lacking. Not as good as I would like to and not as good as I’m capable of. That’s an area of improvement."
It's important to remember that James Jones battled nagging leg injuries all season. The negative effects of said injury probably hurt James most on the defensive end, but he still managed to get it done when he needed to. Timely blocks against the Bulls in double-overtime and on the road in Miami are evidence of that. What Jones lacked in explosiveness and lateral movement, he made up for (at least partially) with smarts.
Case in point: Jones has took 16 charges this season in 1276 minutes, putting him behind only Joel Przybilla (who does a helluva job drawing charges) in charges drawn per minute. Establishing position and sacrificing your body are things you can do on defense even when you're not 100 percent.
Three-point shooting: "Pretty good, except for the late-season collapse. Once again, it was pretty good, but not as well as I would like it to be and not as well as I think it should have."
A "pretty good" three-point shooting performance from Jones this season is better than anything we've seen in Portland since Steve Smith. Finishing with the third best three-point percentage in the NBA (44%), despite struggling at the end of the season, is something to be proud of.
Jones shot a ridiculous 55% from three during the month of December, contributing greatly to the 13-game winning streak. He cooled down a bit in January, though he still shot a respectable 44%.
Once again, injury was probably to blame for Jones' decrease in three-point shooting percentage. After sitting all of February, Jones' three-point percentages dipped to 37% in March followed by a 38% month in April.
"My body hasn’t been 100 percent all year and that’s not going to change," Jones said toward the end of the season, "especially going down the stretch. You compensate and you cope and at the end of the day, regardless of how you feel, you have to be able to make that shot. I just haven’t been doing that lately."
Rebounding: "Definitely need to improve on that and to me that ties into defense. Percentage wise, I kind of gauge rebounding on whether or not my guy gets the ball or if I get the ball. Rebounding for me might mean getting more rebounds because I’m putting a body on guys and just doing my part to make sure we’re securing rebounds. I could to a bit better in that, but I think every player could do better in that department."
He's right about that. The Blazers were 25th in rebounding this season. Greg Oden will help, but he's not going to solve the problem himself. Jones averaged 2.8 rebounds per game this season, which isn't exactly stellar, but it is statistically his second best rebounding season.
Worth noting that after a miss Jones' responsibility is to get down court to spot up for three, which partially explains his average rebounding numbers.
Ball handling/putting the ball on the floor: "I can do that stuff, but that’s not really something that I emphasize or work with because that’s not really my job here. If they open it up a little bit and tell me to handle the ball and be a little more aggressive, I can do that, but every team doesn’t need five ball handlers; they need guys who know their role and their position.
"For me, I can handle the ball and create off the dribble and do things like that, but if there’s a chance for me to get the ball back to Steve or back to Brandon, that’s their job so you give the ball and allow them to do their job. And hopefully they’ll respect your job, which is shooting, and they’ll find you and put you in a better situation to do what you do well."
James is right: Ball-handling isn't something Nate McMillan asks him to do. After rebounds, the Blazers get the ball to the point guard almost exclusively, regardless of situation. I have no idea whether that is by necessity or design.
Jones averages 0.6 assists per game, while also logging 0.5 turnovers per. Not great, but not horrible either.
Leadership: "It will definitely be different next year. I think I was o.k. this year, but being injured and not being in the midst of everything on a consistent basis, you give a lot of lip service. I’m not a big fan of lip service, so if I can’t get out there and physically lead these guys and prod and push these guys and carry them along, then I can’t really lead effectively or the way I want to.
"The challenge for me was to be able to have that on court time. I know I’ll be healthier next year. I mean, I’ll probably be in the best shape of my life because I felt like I was in really good shape this summer and I think that kind of carried me earlier in the season when I wasn’t practicing at all. So I’m going to get right and I think that will help everything in general."
Jones' calming presence on the court is undeniable. Rarely makes mistakes, never seems to get frustrated and is invaluable in helping other players understand the game when he's on or off the court. That's probable enough leadership for this team.