Weber State’s Dillon Jones took feedback from 2023 NBA draft combine and turned himself into a legitimate 2024 draft prospect

Weber State forward Dillon Jones passes during game against Saint Mary's Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Moraga, Calif. Jones was among the prospects participating in the NBA combine in Chicago this week.

CHICAGO — Last year, Weber State’s Dillon Jones was largely unknown at the NBA draft combine.

He was a late addition to the preceding G League Elite camp after someone else had dropped out. Jones grabbed ahold of that opportunity and made the most of every minute. His showing at the 2023 G League Elite Camp earned him a call up to the 2023 combine.

The consensus from the scouts and executives in attendance last year was that Jones needed to work more on his body and continue to prove that he could play at a high level — gain strength, improve decision-making, improve shooting.

The feedback Jones received led him to return to Weber State for a final season and that decision has paid off.

“I think it was the right decision going back to Weber and growing my game and just giving myself time to get better,” Jones told the Deseret News. “I’m in a better position versus where I was last year and that was the ultimate goal. So yeah, it was definitely the right decision.”

Based on what was being said by insiders, Jones might not have been drafted in 2023, but the same can not be said this year. He’s currently projected to be a second-round pick, somewhere between the 32nd and 44th pick.

He tested well at the combine with great shooting numbers and improved on all of his agility testing compared to last year. A number of teams are looking at him as the kind of pick that could end up being a steal in the second round.

Prior to the this year’s NBA draft combine, Jones was already getting calls about pre-draft workouts with NBA teams. He worked out for Golden State before arriving in Chicago and has post-combine workouts set up with Boston, Milwaukee, Toronto and Indiana. Minnesota also entered the fray as an interested team while in Chicago.

“He probably wouldn’t have been drafted last year,” an NBA scout said of Jones. “It would be shocking if he doesn’t get picked this year. He’s probably going to be off the board in the 30s.”

While there were many people on the outside that were wondering if Jones would stay in the draft last year, or if he would enter the transfer portal after withdrawing from the draft process, Weber State’s head coach said he knew that if Jones decided to withdraw from the 2023 draft, that he’d be a Wildcat.

“He wanted to be a legacy player at Weber State, and that meant a lot to him and a lot to us,” Eric Duft told the Deseret News. “People are asking me last year, ‘Are you worried about him transferring?’ I never, never went to bed one night worried about him leaving in the transfer portal. He told us two weeks before the season ended that he wouldn’t transfer, and Dillon is a guy who whatever he says, he means it. He’s loyal and dedicated and we’re just so proud of him.”

During the 2023-24 season, Jones improved on nearly everything. His turnovers were down, assists were up, his shooting numbers at every level increased and he was defending at a higher level.

But what had teams turning their head was the way Jones looked.

“He looks incredible,” a Western Conference executive said. “He’s a wing in a power forward body and he plays with the strength of an NBA level power forward. Everyone wanted to see if he could change his body a little bit — come into this year in better condition — and he’s delivered.”

That took a lot of work on Jones’ part. He knew he wasn’t going to have the resources of some players at higher tier programs, but he took the time to really study and understand how his body worked and how he could maximize everything that he put into his body and how he could maximize his time as well.

“That was something that I could control, you know? So when they’re saying that the one thing I need to do to succeed is improve my body, well I can take advantage of that right now,” Jones said. “I made a consistent effort to be strict, because honestly, this is my life now, I’m a professional athlete. Your body is your job. And I’m actually heavier, but as I’ve gone through the process of like learning my body, I don’t focus on the scale. It’s about body composition.”

Jones measured in at 6′4.50 without shoes on with a 6′11 wingspan and came in at 236 pounds at the combine. Duft said Jones’ body fat percentage has gone down by more than five percentage points since last year.

Jones’ strength and athleticism as a playmaker and a scorer has really intrigued NBA teams, though there were some at the combine who felt like he was playing a little out of his element during the combine scrimmages.

One scout told the Deseret News that Jones seemed too ball dominant but also tentative to shoot and that he seemed nervous, which was understandable. That being said, a Western Conference front office executive said because Jones played so many games at Weber, they’d put more stock in his season performance than anything he did at the combine, so there was not really any concern.

Jones is the perfect example of a player who takes every bit of criticism and uses it to improve himself. He didn’t jump the gun by staying in the draft last season and he made every improvement that he could in order to turn heads and become a legitimate draft prospect in the eyes of the NBA’s decision makers.

Last year when I spoke with Jones at the combine, he shook his head at the idea that a number of executives said he wasn’t quite ready.

“I don’t need everybody to believe in me,” he said in 2023. “I just need one person.”

It seems very likely that, this time around, there is a lot more than one person in the NBA who believes in Dillon Jones.