Over the past few seasons, the Houston Rockets have lots of promising young forwards, which looks great on paper but has proven difficult to manage in practice. With several players in need of playing time to prove their abilities and improve their games, it hasn't been easy for the organization to learn which guys need more playing time in the short term, let alone which can be counted on for years. It's a relatively nice problem to have, but it's still a problem.
Over the first few weeks of this season, rookie Terrence Jones, the 18th overall pick in June after helping Kentucky to a national title, has been one of the losers in this battle for minutes. Jones played in only two of the Rockets' first nine games for a total of 13 minutes, including a 30-second cameo in last Monday's narrow loss to the Miami Heat. On Sunday, Jones got his biggest opportunity of the year so far, playing 20 minutes in a 119-108 loss to the Lakers at Staples Center. And Jones did not disappoint.
With 8:30 remaining in the second quarter, Jones took an outlet pass from teammate Omer Asik and pushed the ball ahead in the hopes of beating the Lakers defenders down the court. His driving lanes never closed, and Jones took it right to the hoop. Jodie Meeks — another former Kentucky Wildcat, although they weren't teammates in Lexington — attempted to take a charge, but that just put him on Jones's poster. The subsequent tomahawk jam stands as one of the best dunks of the season so far.
Jones was impressive on the night, scoring eight points on 4-of-7 shooting and chipping in four rebounds and three assists. But it's this dunk that will earn him more playing time, because it encapsulates the talent that got the Rockets interested in him in the first place. Jones isn't just a potential contributor — he occasionally looked like a star in college and could blossom into the sort of scoring option Houston desperately needs to take pressure off James Harden and Jeremy Lin. Jones is a long way off from hitting that level, but he has the potential to do so.
For now, Jones has only really found a way to stand out. However, in a positional logjam such as this one, that can be a significant achievement. At the very least, he just gave people a very good reason to remember him.