Thanks to a lockout-shortened season, Detroit's Jonas Jerebko had little time to develop his game beyond finding his post-injury footing. After a torn achilles robbed Jonas of his sophomore season, his focus in 2011-12 was to return to the physical form and ability he showed as a rookie. In a recent interview with Pistons.com writer Keith Langlois, Jonas emphasized two key points of focus for his offseason workouts: handle and shot:
"For 18 months, I’ve been working on building this," he says, grabbing his injured right leg, "up to this," touching his left. "Now that I’m there, I can start working on getting stronger and on my game – handle, shot."
This should be music to the ears of Pistons fans that would prefer Jonas at his career-natural position of small forward. Before the draft and during much of his rookie season in the NBA, Jerebko spent most of his time on the wing instead of the frontcourt. Jonas' size and speed have made him an apt defender at the 3, but his limited offense has always seemed more suited to a power forward's playbook. As a result, Jonas has been stuck between positions-- defensively challenged against NBA big men but too limited to bring the isolation/perimeter play of an NBA small forward.
Much of Jonas' offensive game during his two NBA seasons has been based on off-the-ball cleanup. In 2011-12, three of his most common play types according to SynergySports were spot-up shooting, cuts to the basket and offensive rebound put-backs. Yet spot-up shooting, which dominated Jonas' usage, joins isolation as his two least effective plays. Out of 578 plays recorded this season, Jonas attempted 186 spot-up plays while scoring .85 points per possession-- good for 222nd in the league. Yet only 29 of Jonas' attempts this season came in isolation, an area where his 14% turnover rate didn't earn him much faith from the coaching staff.
It stands to reason that some work on his handles would help Jonas improve his isolation play, a trait which would add another weapon to a five man NBA offense. Fans may be weary of inviting iso plays from yet another Piston, but if Jonas can create his own offense when receiving the ball on the wing, this only adds to a team's versatility. Additionally, if spot up shooting is going to continue to be the offensive focus for Jonas, some work on fundamentals and form might pay dividends. His slow release has caused him problems in the past, and some work on footing and lift might give him a boost on the perimeter.
The Pistons are most likely to add a big man in the first round in the 2012 draft, and the power forward position could be crowded if Jason Maxiell opts in and Charlie Villanueva stays healthy. Another body up front might put pressure on coach Lawrence Frank to play Jonas Jerebko where he logically belongs-- at small forward. The real question is if Jonas shows the right kind of improvement, will Frank reward Jonas with play time at the 3? Or will the Pistons' baffling loyalty to Tayshaun Prince continue to derail a much-needed youth movement? If Jonas Jerebko forces Frank's hand, it will be a great thing for the Detroit Pistons.