WALTHAM, Mass. -- It's the height that catches your attention with Perry Jones.
While seated at a podium earlier this week as the Boston Celtics introduced some of their glitzier offseason acquisitions, including fellow newcomers David Lee and Amir Johnson, Jones blended in a bit. But when the quintet rose to display their new jerseys, the 6-foot-11 Jones stood noticeably taller in a group in which all the players are 6-7 or larger.
It's a combination of size and athleticism that intrigued Boston about the 23-year-old forward, enough so that the team was willing to acquire his guaranteed deal from the Oklahoma City Thunder and bring him to training camp despite now carrying 17 guaranteed contracts -- two more than the regular-season limit.
Jones faces a climb to make Boston's roster. Despite flashes of potential, he's had a rather unremarkable three-year NBA career while averaging 3.4 points and 1.8 rebounds over 11.7 minutes per game. Injuries and a lack of opportunity have contributed to appearing in only 143 games and playing only an average of 558 minutes per season.
Boston's frontcourt depth chart is already overflowing and, after the Thunder sent $1.5 million in cash as part of this month's trade, it'd be easy for Boston to simply swallow Jones' $2 million contract (having already received a future second-round pick for its troubles).
But the Celtics are going to give Jones every opportunity to prove he deserves to stay before they decide on his future. At this point, all Jones is looking for is a fresh start and a chance.
"With OKC, there hasn’t been as much of an opportunity for him to play as much as he would like as a youngster on a team trying to compete for a championship," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said while introducing Perry on Monday. "But [he is] very athletic -- a different type of player than we have in the frontcourt right now with his athleticism and length."
So what does Jones believe he can bring to Boston?
"Whatever they need. Mostly athleticism," he said. "I haven’t had a chance to showcase that -- playing-wise -- because of opportunities I had and or didn’t have. One thing I can bring is a lot of athleticism, energy and a lot of passion."
Jones was asked, directly, whether he didn't get a fair chance to showcase his talents in Oklahoma City.
"I’m going to say yeah," Jones said after a slight hesitation. "I’m just happy for this fresh new start -- new start, new system, different conference -- just a whole different new start. Hopefully everything works for the best."
Jones made sure to stress that he grew during his time in Oklahoma City. Asked what he learned, he noted, "Working hard every day, whether you get minutes or not, whether you are playing or not, whatever the case may be. Just come in and work, that’s something I pride myself on."
Pressed on what he gained from playing behind Kevin Durant, Jones added, "Work hard every day, pay attention to detail. Those guys helped me to work hard every day, before and after practice. I learned a lot from superstars. You learn a lot."
Jones actually opened last season as a starter for Oklahoma City. In the second game of the season, he put up 32 points over 42 minutes in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and averaged 22.7 points over the three-game stretch that started with that game. In the fifth game of the season, he suffered a bone bruise that knocked him out of action for 13 games, and he struggled to regain a role on a healthier Thunder squad when he returned.
“That’s frustrating for anybody, especially having those good games, and I was feeling good about myself and confident and then things change," Jones said. "I had my injury and everyone came back, things went back to the way they were. It was frustrating, but it has taught me a lot, and it’s taught me I can play in this league."
With Boston, Jones needs to prove he can be a capable two-way player to have a chance of sticking. That combination of size and athleticism should give him an ability to defend multiple positions, but the league's advanced player-tracking data shows a mixed bag of production on that end.
Last season, league tracking data shows Jones' opponents shot 4.8 percent higher against him than their season average, including 11.1 percent higher than average from beyond the 3-point arc. The knee-jerk reaction is that he can't defend to the wing, but the league's data for the 2013-14 season shows a player who held opponents to 38.6 percent shooting overall (or 6 percent below their season averages), including a mere 27.2 percent beyond the 3-point arc (or 8.3 percent below their average from 3-point land).
The Celtics are hoping to figure out which stat set better reflects Perry's abilities. And much like they've been able to put the likes of Jordan Crawford and Evan Turner in position to accentuate their talents, Boston will hope coach Brad Stevens can do the same to maximize Jones' potential.
And if it doesn't work out, Boston can simply move on.
For some Celtics fans, this is a chance to examine a player many wanted back during the 2012 draft. Boston had consecutive late first-round picks, and after landing Jared Sullinger at No. 21, many in the fan base wanted Jones with the following selection. Instead, the Celtics chose Fab Melo (we all know how that worked out); Jones went to Oklahoma City at No. 28.
The Celtics were intrigued by Jones in that draft. Did Jones think he might land in Boston on draft night?
“I thought I was going to wind up in a lot of places on draft night, but things don’t work out that way," Jones said of a slide affected, in part, by a knee injury. "I’m happy that I’m here now. It’s been like a fresh start. It doesn’t matter what happened three or four years ago. I’m a totally different person and player from then. It’s all about from here on."