Can Damian Jones follow Festus Ezeli's footsteps and become a solid NBA big man? The Warriors are betting on it.
Golden State selected the Vanderbilt center with the 30th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft on Thursday night. That's the same slot where the Warriors drafted the fourth-year veteran back in 2012. While Ezeli took a while to develop into an efficient pro, he's set for a big pay raise this summer after playing out his rookie contract on the west coast.
Jones was the second Commodore to be drafted. His teammate Wade Baldwin IV, who was drafted 17th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies.
Jones was one of Vandy's most consistent weapons from the moment he set foot on Ingram Court at Memorial Gym. The seven-foot center brought a dynamic inside scoring game with him from Texas to put a Commodore rebuild in motion back in 2013. He averaged 11.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game as a freshman to start a career filled with All-SEC accolades. He upped those averages to 13.9 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks in just over 26 minutes per game this past season.
Jones originally declared for the draft before his junior year and was projected to be a lottery pick after earning first-team All-SEC honors as a sophomore. However, foul trouble and inconsistent performances limited his improvement, and while he upped his scoring efficiency and cut down on turnovers, scouts were no longer comfortable slotting him in the top half of the draft. A strong showing at the NBA Draft Combine -- including a 36-inch standing vertical leap -- helped reverse the flow of his stock, but he still slipped to 30th overall regardless.