The San Antonio Spurs are now less than one month away from the 2021 NBA Draft and are beginning to hold pre-draft interviews and workouts with draft prospects. Notably, news broke recently that the Spurs held a pre-draft interview with the University of Texas big man Kai Jones.
While the two-way potential of Jones is very obviously there, he has scouts a bit torn on him. Jones' game is still raw and in the early stages of development, as he's only been playing organized basketball since he was 15 years old-- only about five years ago.
This can be seen in one of two ways: either that he's extremely inexperienced compared to his counterparts or that he hasn't had as much time to learn bad habits on the court. It's just as possible that in reality, Jones lands somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
Regardless, the consensus seems to be that Jones has big 'boom-or-bust' potential. That is, there's a chance that he can develop into an incredibly special two-way player, and there's also a chance that he'll never realize that potential. So, is he worth the gamble for the Spurs?
Why taking a risk on Kai Jones is worth it for the San Antonio Spurs
Personally, I think Jones has the chance to be one of the best long-term acquisitions of this year's draft, perhaps outside of the top two or three players. For being so inexperienced, he's displayed a unique set of skills (not to mention his athleticism) that are very desirable in the modern NBA and would fit in with the Spurs' young core.
Coming into the league, Jones will weigh about 221 pounds and stand just over 6'11" in shoes. He'll also have about a 7'2" wingspan. These measurements are remarkably similar to Giannis Antetokounmpo immediately after his growth spurt in early 2016 when he was about the same age as Jones.
Although Antetokounmpo was more than likely considered the better overall prospect (once he went through his growth spurt) due to his guard skills, Jones shows more potential as an outside shooter despite shooting a low volume of threes at Texas. He shot 38% from beyond the arc on 34 total attempts last season.
That, in combination with his rim-running potential, his ridiculous athleticism, his switchability on defense, and the fact that he'll fill a position of need could give him one of the highest ceilings on the team.
Even if the Spurs are no longer the absolute best team in the league when it comes to player development, I believe in the coaching staff's ability to generally instill good habits in its players. I also think that giving Jones the opportunity to train with someone like Tim Duncan could tremendously improve his chances to succeed and accelerate his learning early on in his career.
So, when asking whether or not Jones is worth the risk on draft night, the answer is a resounding yes in my mind. The Spurs do not have a truly indispensable player at this point, perhaps other than Dejounte Murray, and in a draft class oozing with talent, now is the time to take a gamble and be less conservative. Even if the payout isn't immediate, in a few year's time, if Jones develops well, he could make for a massive payday.