There's something about this Jonas Jerebko guy, and I'm not quite sure what it is. The team just looks so much better with him on court.
Jonas Jerebko: 2011-12 Year in Review
8.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, .7 assists, .6 steals, 1 turnover, 46.8% shooting
On New Year's Eve of 2011, it looked like that good old Jonas Jerebko was back. Jonas finished the team's only win against Indiana that season with 20 points and 12 rebounds, matching up well with 19 and 11 from his frontcourt partner Greg Monroe. It seemed like a promising pairing, but it didn't last. After a stretch of poor shooting and weak defense, Jonas was moved to the bench in favor of Ben Wallace and ultimately Jason Maxiell, who finished the season at power forward.
The rest of Jonas' season was pedestrian, but effective. In the 51 remaining games of the season, Jonas averaged 21 steady minutes per contest recording 8 points and 5 rebounds. He was efficient enough on offense to outweigh his defensive issues, and it's reflected in the advanced stats. Amongst current players, Jonas was third in true shooting percentage last season at 54.8%, behind only Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey, respectively. In fact, those three are the only current Pistons that produced a net gain on court as measured by the margin between O-Rtg and D-Rtg, metrics that reflect a player's production based on 100 possessions.
Despite the no-nonsense, effective offense, Jerebko struggled on defense. This may have been the primary cause for the demotion out of the starting lineup in January. It's hard to put your finger on where his biggest problem is because they are pretty well varied. He struggles when being posted up by bigger players. He also struggles staying in front of faster small forwards. Unlike Rodney Stuckey, whose defensive woes show a clear path to improving, it's hard to find a direction for Jonas. It's unfortunate, because if he doesn't improve that defense, the role he has now -- backup tweener forward -- may be the role he takes throughout his career.
On the offensive end, Jonas is a solid cleanup swingman. He's great when catching the ball for a cut to the basket, he's solid on scoring off of offensive rebounds and he can run the floor well after an outlet pass in transition. The issue is that he's a little lost with the ball in his hands. He's not going to show off a dribble trick to get a few feet of space and knock down a jumper. He's not going to drive through a few defenders on the way to the basket. Thanks to a very inconsistent 3-point shot, he's won't be very reliable as a spot up shooter. You're also not going to see much back-to-the-basket play out of Jonas.
You get the sense that Jonas doesn't have the offensive game to be a wing player, but he doesn't have the post game to play power forward. All of these definitions aside, the important point to remember is that Jonas is still very effective and very efficient, and when he does get playing time at either position he finds a way to be productive. So if nothing changes and Jonas doesn't develop as a strong 3 or a solid 4, what we have in Jonas right now is nothing to sneeze at.
Areas to Improve in 2012-13
1. 3-point Shooting.
No matter where Jonas earns most of his burn this season, he'll be well-suited to bring a nice 3-point shot with him. The funny thing is that Jonas has a really incredible long two, a shot most coaches would want to prevent. Jonas was so effective on these shots last season that he produced more points on long 2s than he did on 3-pointers anywhere on the court. Jonas should find confidence in his jumper from the 20-foot shots he knocks down and find a way to make that happen a few more feet away.
2. Add muscle, improve lateral quickness.
Hopefully we'll see a quicker, stronger Jonas now that he hasn't been focused on rehabbing his ankle. Added strength may help him defend post-ups better, and improved lateral quickness may prevent the quick small forwards from getting past him in isolation. If strength and speed don't do it, hopefully good old-fashioned practice will.
There are other areas Jonas could work on, like how to translate his dominant Euro performances against NBA competition, but that's a much longer, more detailed story. For now, to keep things basic, an improved outside shot and a physical edge on defense are all I'd ask for.
2012-13 Projected Production
If you, like me, were hoping to see more burn for Jonas at small forward this season, I've got some bad news. Pistons.com's Keith Langlois has outlined the depth chart at each position this summer, and when covering the small forward position Jerebko wasn't mentioned once. It's pretty clear that this team sees Jerebko as a power forward, despite the defensive struggles and apparent lack of a post game. They see Jonas and Jason Maxiell battling it out for the starting job this preseason.
With that, Jonas will effectively be battling four players for playing time, in a sense. Not only will Jerebko need to split time with Jason Maxiell and Charlie Villanueva (best shape of his life! for real this time! i promise!), but Slava Kravtsov and Andre Drummond, whose rise may force Monroe to power forward at times.
So if Jonas isn't on Detroit's radar at small forward and he's part of a strange frontcourt logjam, is there an opportunity for an expanded role? That may only come by trade, unfortunately. It's possible that Jason Maxiell will be traded by the trade deadline, the moment his $5M expiring contract hits its peak value. The question will be whether this frees up more time for Jerebko or if it moves Monroe to the 4 to facilitate a rise from a rookie center or two.
As a result, projecting the numbers here isn't easy. There's what I'd like to see and what will actually happen. I'd love to see Jonas hit 35% of his three pointers, I'd love to see him get time at the 3 in the magical absence of Tayshaun Prince. I'd love to see an improved defender out of Jonas. What I expect to see, however, is more of the same. As I mentioned above, more of the same from a net gain player is never a bad thing.
24 minutes, 9.8 points, 5 rebounds, .7 assists, .7 steals, 1.1 turnovers, 47.3% shooting
The only real game changer we might see for Jonas might come from an injury or a trade to Tayshaun Prince. If Prince is moved and Maggette remains as fragile as he has been, Jerebko might be a "forced choice" for Lawrence Frank like it was for John Kuester a few years back. If Jerebko suddenly finds himself in the starting lineup on the wing in 2011-12, it might be his only chance to show off some of that Olympic nastiness he rocked out this summer. Otherwise, he lost the starting role to Jason Maxiell last season, it shouldn't be a surprise if that happens again. It'll hinge on his defense, because if he can improve that, he can force his way back into the starting five.