Didn't take much time for Colangelo to make his next move. It is now being reported that restricted free-agent Fred Jones and the Raps are close to having a deal in place.
As the Salmons "signing" was to Franchise, the Jones signing is to Howland. Provided the Pacers don't match, the Raps have just signed themselves an athlete who will give them a great spark off the bench. A former Oregon Duck and Slam Dunk Champion, this 6'2'' combo guard was Indiana's best player off the bench last year and averaged close to 10 ppg in 27 minutes of action. Although not staggering numbers, Jones has the ability to fill it up and put up 20+ points. This was something that was definitely lacking on the Raps bench last year. Although he doesn't shoot the best percentage he is a threat from beyond the arc and also has good slashing ability.
Don't be mistaken, Jones is an undersized two, but he also has the ability to play a little of the one. Although never really asked to play PG when in Indiana, when he did start at PG for two games in the 05 season he managed to dish out 13 assists with just three turn-overs. It will probably be rare to see the Raps use him much at the point but he does have the ability to play that position and there is comfort to be had in that. Of course in a league where suddenly players are being asked to play multiple positions Jones does not really fit that mold, but he does have some other appealing qualities.
In my opinion the best thing that Jones brings to the table is a true scorer and energy off the bench. He is a player the Raps will rely on to get the team out of a first quarter slump and is a player you can be excited to see pop off the pine at Mitchell's calling. He has more or less always been a bench player for the Pacers and will not have any issues doing the same for the Dinos. It's thi's guys explosiveness that you have to love. At what point last year did I ever get excited to see the Raps dip into the bench? Rarely. Sure when Graham checked in I was excited to see what he could do but Joey is not the model of consistency, and players like Eric Williams, Matt Bonner, Loren Woods et al never made me feel upbeat if the Raps started off slow.
The one thing Raps fans will be interested to know (as there will undoubtedly be some comparisons right off the bat) is that in very similar minutes, Jones had equally as strong rebounding and efficiency numbers as Salmons. Although perhaps not a player who can play 3 even 4 positions, Jones can bring a lot to the table and in my opinion, has similar upside to Salmons. In fact to me Jones brings an excitement to the table that was more than lacking in Salmons game.
Of course this thought of having a great sixth-man may be all for not. The last time the Raps made a pitch to a Restricted FA, the Bulls matched and Chris Duhon was more than happy to stay in Chicago. How likely is it that the Pacers match? It's hard to tell at this point in particular with the Al Harrington rumours circulating around. Although the Pacers have just dealt Anthony Johnson, they still have some large contracts on the books including O'Neal, Tinsley, Jackson and Daniels. Add in a likely 6 year, $60 million dollar deal for Harrington and there is not much dough left to go around. You also have to wonder if the Daniels trade didn't make Jones dispensable. (As an aside how funny and rare is it that two teams, the Pacers and the Mavs made two separate deals this off-season?)
Of course what this potential deal doesn't bring to the table is a FA chosing Toronto over a contender. I however do not think that is a big of a deal as many others. Toronto needs to win games in order to truly be a destination of choice. Simply having Colangelo is not enough and if Indiana is willing to let Jones join the Raps franchise, we are one step closer to those long desired winning ways.
If Jones sports the new Raps uni this year, I will be one of the first to grab one off the shelves at Centre Sports.