In terms of individual players on the Cavs' roster, none presents more of an air of the unknown than James Jones. Signed from Miami this summer, Jones was a player signed with influence from LeBron James, and given how the roster has subsequently shaken out, it appears that Jones will see increased time in the Cavs rotation compared to what he saw in Miami. However, we have no idea how much of an increase in playing time he will see.
Jones saw his playing time reduce for each season of the LeBron era in Miami, going from playing 19.1 minutes per game in 2010-2011 to 11.8 minutes per game in 20 contests last season. And it isn't like Jones was injured often to cause this slip; he never was placed on the inactive list with an injury as the reason during the last four seasons. He just was slowly phased out of the rotation in favor of guys like Shane Battier and Rashard Lewis.
When Jones did play for Miami last year, it was very clear what his designated role was. 79.4 percent of Jones's shots were threes-pointers, and he hit 51.9 percent of those, which would have been a lock for the league lead if he had qualified. Jones is a strong spot-up shooter from three, and he doesn't do much else:
Clearly, this is a small sample size to draw from, but Jones has always played this way. 62 percent of the shots he's taken have been threes, and he hits 40.3 percent for his career, a very solid number. He's a dynamite corner three shooter, and at this point he doesn't try to do anything he can't. Offensively, he's going to lurk on the three-point line, make the extra pass, and shoot when he's open. He'll likely see major benefit from playing in a wide-open system in Cleveland, especially in lineups where Kevin Love is also on the floor. Seeing him hit somewhere in the 45-46 percent range is not an unreal expectation.
Defensively, Jones is fairly hard to assess. Jones has decent size at 6'8", 225 lbs., so he can match up with most wings. However, he's not that quick, doesn't have quick hands, and is nonexistent in defensive rebounding. Really, Jones's best attribute is that he's fairly smart and doesn't gamble, and can rotate well, even if he's not going to do much to contest once there. The eye test and individual stats show that Jones is not great on defense.
However, when you look at his on-off numbers, it's very strange. Last year, Jones had an astronomical on-court net rating (+19.5 points/100 possessions), and that was partly due to the Heat having a 94.5 defensive rating with him on the floor, almost a 10-point swing from having him off the floor. This isn't really a small-sample size thing, either; in each of the last four years, the Heat posted a defensive rating of 100 or lower with Jones on the floor, and only once were better defensively with him sitting - in 2011-2012, when they posted a 96.8 DRtg with Jones sitting compared to 98.4 with him on the floor. This is really strange, and while it's partly explainable (Jones did spend a lot of time with LeBron and Chris Bosh on the floor), four years of that trend is interesting, and we'll have to see if it continues on the Cavs.
Jones is now 34 years old and hasn't played regular minutes since 2011-2012. However, his skill set on the offensive end and.....whatever is happening with his defensive statistics makes it seem that he can still be a somewhat effective role player, especially for what the Cavs will want him to do. Jones will likely be called on to spread the floor, provide shooting, and not do much else for limited stretches, similar to what he did Saturday against Miami. Whether he gets around 9-10 minutes a game or closer to 15-16 is dependent on injuries, but I think he'll probably have nights where he plays a lot more than people expect. I also have to think that, barring a trade or explosion from Joe Harris, Jones will likely play a fair amount of games this season out of necessity.
The Cavs are deep on the wing, but the amount of small-ball that they will likely be playing necessitates that depth, and Jones is going to be a part of that. We know what Jones is as an offensive player, but his role still remains to be seen. I think that role could be more significant than many expect.