Every draft cycle we circle back on familiar topics: ceiling vs floor, expected outcome vs potential, fit vs best player available. In the case of Colby Jones, it feels like you’re straddling the line between a few of these.
Colby played guard for the Xavier Musketeers, leading them to the Big East title game and to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16. He was one of the best conference players during his time in college and brings a varied skillset to the table.
Jones was evaluated as a 4 start recruit in the 2020 class. He did not appear on ESPN’s Top 100 recruits. Industry boards have Colby at an average rank of 27. Some like No Ceilings have him as high as 17, while Yahoo slots him at 32 to start the second round.
Let’s dig into Colby’s game and make our own conclusion.
Stats and Measurables
Colby Jones is a 21 year old junior out of Xavier. He stands 6’5” tall with a 6’8” wingspan. That length of +3” is below average. He weighs 199 lbs, putting his BMI at 23.9 which falls right at average for the draft class.
Jones is best suited playing guard at next level on offense. He’s very comfortable with his dribble and is comfortable playing a lot of on ball and off ball roles. Defensively, his size and athletic profile suggest he should defend wings.
In just 36 games of action including the NCAA tournament, Colby posted a per game stat line of 15.0 pts, 5.7 rbs, 4.4 ast, 1.3 stl, 0.6 blk, and 2.3 tov on 58% true shooting in 34.0 minutes.
As we’ve seen with other prospects, the traditional stat line doesn’t mean much. A) they aren’t volume adjusted, B) they show no comparison to others, and C) they are all results focused. We’ll get into better numbers later.
Colby is from Alabama and was touted for his IQ and foundational skillset in every of the game. You can see in some of his high school tape that he isn’t the traditionally dominant superstar to-be; he just quietly buries you without much flash.
He clearly has a strong dribble, a confident mid-range pull-up, and is crafty near the rim with smarts and nice feel. He just knows how to play really good, fundamental ball. He was recruited by Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, and Iowa State, among others. Before settling with Xavier.
Having started 11 of the 15 games his freshman year, everything went into a tailspin as the pandemic hit the world. His sophomore season was impacted as well and a prospective “one and done” prospect ends up spending three years in college. This is a pretty normal story for the past couple drafts.
However, a lot of personal development took placed during those seasons. Not only did he see more playing time and workload, he shifted from more of an off-ball load to a primary, on-ball creator. His assists skyrocketed while the turnovers stayed low.
He earned multiple awards as one of the Big East Conference’s best players.
When we said Colby has a great foundation in every skill you want, we weren’t kidding.
Jones has a pretty nice jumper and the stats bear it out. He scored 1.07 PPA on jump shots, which put him in the 83%tile among guards. He didn’t take a lot of 3’s (his 3PA rate was in just the 20%tile) but he made nearly 38%. The 68% free throw shooting for his college career is a puzzling figure.
Jones’ real bread and butter is his passing. He’s got nice size to distribute from either guard position and the highlights display it well! His 3.9 assists per 30 minutes was in the 96%tile among qualified guards (100+ minutes played). His assist to turnover ratio was in the 85%tile among the same. Just take a look at some of the highlights!
Jones gets to the rim quite often for his position. He attempted 159 dunks or layups which accounted for 39% of his shots. That put him in the 72%tile of frequency among guards. That’s pretty spectacular.
He doesn’t profile as a primary creator or project to have a ceiling as a number one option. Therefore his 36%tile in unassisted field goal frequency isn’t all that surprising. But he can self-create on low volume, which is a luxury from role players.
Defensively, Colby is a contributing and aware participant but isn’t changing the game on that end. He rotates well and maintains good positioning. He largely avoids fouling as well. But you wouldn’t describe him as a torture chamber for the opposing offensive player.
Colby also does the extracurriculars which really round out his game. He’s in the 83%tile of rebounding and his defensive activity (steals + blocks - fouls) is in the 77%tile. As imperfect as Basketball Reference’s Box Plus-Minus (BPM), Colby was positive all 3 years, hitting +7.3 his junior season.
Colby does shy away from some contact near the rim and doesn’t impose his physical will to get to the rim. Once he’s down there and guarded, his tendency is to shy away instead of going through. He does finish quite nicely in the aggregate: 1.22 PPA, which falls in the 73%tile among guards.
Jones isn’t a great athlete. His combine numbers for speed and verticality were average. The tape bears that out too. He didn’t beat every guy, he never caught bodies at the rim, and he never flew down the court. Jones is functional, which is plenty for a role player.
Colby is confident in his dribble but there isn’t a lot of wiggle impressive movement with his approach. He is a bit of a no-nonsense, stick to the fundamentals type player. Again, that translates nicely to a good role player but it certainly limits his ceiling.
Colby is one of the easy, bankable role players in the draft. The weaknesses detract from his ceiling but in no way prevent him from being a valuable bench player or 5th starter long term in his career.
If things go right for Colby offensively, he could turn into a Malcolm Brogdon type. If he scales more naturally on the defensive end, he could resemble Chicago Bulls Lonzo Ball (hopefully without the injuries...*knock, knock*).
With so many players this year having a wide range of outcomes, including some absurdly high ceilings, it’s clear why Jones is mocked in the late first round.
The Jazz could benefit from the skills Colby Jones brings as a player. He could easily oscillate between the 1 or the 2, guard 2s and 3s defensively. The Jazz desperately need passing and a player who can create on occasion is a nice release valve.
Ultimately with every player, it’s not “if” you would or should draft them, but “when”. The idea is to intersect risk and reward to generate the highest value proposition. Given the Jazz have 3 picks and multiple avenues for changing draft position, we can analyze a lot of scenarios.
Utah should not consider Colby with their #9 or #16 pick. It’s a function of the Jazz primary need (a high ceiling player profiling as a #1 option) and that Colby is likely to be available later. As helpful as Jones would be to the Jazz, he profiles at an impact level for which we already have options.
Colby may be the best option at #28, if still available. Even if he went early, the Jazz could find ways to move up a handful of spots to nab him if they want. He’d work in really nicely with Dunn and Agbaji off the bench, bringing a complimentary skillset to those two.
Where would you take Colby Jones in the upcoming 2023 NBA Draft?