Was Jones the Right Choice?
QUESTION OF THE DAY BY
Q. Now that Fred Jones and Kareem Rush (of the Lakers) are enjoying some playing time in their respective teams, do you think the unexpected move of drafting the athletic Fred Jones in the 2002 NBA Draft over the sharp-shooting Rush was the best move for the Pacers? (From Adrian in Puerto Rico).
A. It really wasn’t as simple a decision as Jones vs. Rush. The Pacers also had taken great interest in Jiri Welsch (Czech Republic) and John Salmons (Miami), both 6-7 swingmen. Media reports, both local and national, generally focused on Rush and mock drafts around the country generally projected him as the Pacers’ choice at No. 14 overall. The Pacers never denied interest in Rush but, the truth was, they were allowing the media to run with that notion because it masked their true intentions. At that point in time, with coach Isiah Thomas’ emphasis on versatility and interchangeable parts, Rush wasn’t as appealing because he was basically considered a one-position player. When Jones came in for his second workout – I believe he was the last player the Pacers saw before the draft – he dazzled Thomas and the scouts with his athleticism.
Considering he was less than 100 percent, physically, at the time, Jones’ performance was even more impressive. Jones offered the promise of a combo guard who could break down defenses off the dribble – skills the Pacers lacked. Could the Pacers use another shooter? Certainly. But they also need all the defense they can get in the backcourt, and Jones is a major plus in that department. As for the others under consideration, Welsch is a quality shooter, but has yet to find an NBA home. Salmons also shows promise, but isn't nearly as explosive as Jones. While Rush and Jones are both enjoying success in their second seasons, it still is far too early to evaluate what either player - or the others in the equation - ultimately will become.