Success for Cavaliers’ Damian Jones involves helping in these 2 areas

Damian Jones, Utah Jazz. (Photo by Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports)
Damian Jones, Utah Jazz. (Photo by Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports) /

When the Cleveland Cavaliers made their slew of moves last month in the league’s free agency period following the 2023 NBA Draft, the two notable transactions involved Cleveland’s signing of Georges Niang and sign-and-trade for Max Strus. Both of those players should boost the Cavaliers’ perimeter shooting efforts, and hopefully, they’ll make things easier for Cleveland’s top options.

Cleveland would re-sign Caris LeVert as well, and their signing of Ty Jerome was an underrated move.

From there, shortly before the Jerome move, Cleveland would acquire Damian Jones from the Utah Jazz via trade, which was not exactly the most noteworthy trade of the offseason. Jones could give the Cavaliers some meaningful energy minutes, though, and what’s realistic to anticipate from him is he can fill in for Jarrett Allen/Evan Mobley some as a reserve 5, and can help Cleveland on the glass.

Jones is not going to be putting up guady numbers, but what would constitute a successful next season for him would be contributing in those aforementioned dirty work areas as a backup big.

Success for Jones is predicated on two things: providing some rim protection for spurts, and giving the Cavs some energy.

Jones has bounced around in recent seasons by being traded multiple times, and he’s been in and out of rotations. To reiterate, he’s not going to be putting up big numbers in rotational minutes.

For his career to this point, he’s had 5.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 14.6 minutes per outing, and has averaged 5.7 points and 3.6 rebounds in 15.0 minutes per game over the past three seasons. In 41 combined appearances with the Los Angeles Lakers and then later on, Utah Jazz last season, he had 3.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 11.6 minutes per contest.

Point being, it’s safe to assume Jones is not going to have a huge role with the Cavaliers next season, but his size can be useful for defensive stretches off the bench, and he can help on the glass. Him aiding the team in those two areas has to be the primary focus.

His 6-foot-11 size and 7-foot-4 wingspan should be meaningful to have for stretches on defense. For his career, he’s had 1.7 blocks per-36 minutes, and a block rate of 4.1 percent. That clip was 3.7 percent combined with L.A. and Utah last season. So, in spurts, his frame can make a difference for Cleveland on the defensive interior.

Jones can also help on the glass, and as an occasional lob threat. He had 9.2 boards per-36 minutes last season, and has a career defensive rebounding rate of 16.5 percent. He can generate some extra possessions as well, as evidenced by an offensive rebounding rate of 9.7, 7.9 and 7.3 over the past three seasons.

Jones again won’t have a big role with Cleveland, but for some backup big minutes, his physicality and activity on the interior can be impactful, at least to some degree.

In fairness, though, Cleveland will be his seventh NBA club in his career, which began with the Golden State Warriors back in 2016-17. He was along the ride with two star-studded Warriors’ back-to-back title-winning teams, but Jones’ limitations on offense and fouling issues have factored into him having problems cementing his place in rotations. He’s averaged 2.1 fouls in 14.6 career minutes per contest, which is not ideal.

Maybe with the Cavs, he can find his place. However, if Cleveland were to favor two-way player Isaiah Mobley at some point, and/or if Mobley were to receive a standard contract, Jones could seemingly be moved again or at least be out of the rotation.

Next. Strengths and weaknesses for the Cleveland Cavaliers. dark

But for the 28-year-old Jones, perhaps he finds a niche as an effective roller and energy big, and/or can be a meaningful defensive presence for spurts inside to help with some dirty work.