The Phoenix Suns are now backed into a corner. They were already facing an uphill battle when their best player and best scorer went down with an injury. Now, they’re currently tied 2-2 against the New Orleans Pelicans, with the underdog team having all the momentum in the world. This is looking like a dangerous situation for the team.
Why are the Suns struggling against the Pelicans? Well, because NOLA has a Bogeyman, a monster that terrorizes opposing offenses. Even the best players of Phoenix tremble when they’re matched up against him. Hell, even when he’s not on you, he still strikes fear into your heart. That Bogeyman’s name is Herb Jones.
The Pelicans’ bogeyman that is haunting Chris Paul, Suns
Herb Jones was the 35th overall pick by the Pelicans of the 2021 NBA draft. Coming from Alabama, Jones received little to no fanfare from fans. Draft heads knew that he had the tools to be a great defender, but… that was it. No one really knew what the Pels would be getting into when they drafted Jones.
Over the course of the season, Jones’ defensive prowess began to show. He easily became the Pelicans’ best defender as a rookie, taking on guys from all positions. His length and agility allowed him to bother anyone who tries to score on him. However, playing in NOLA made it hard for him to gain recognition outside of dedicated basketball fans.
In that regard, you could say that Jones’ performance in their series against the Suns was his coming-out party to the NBA world. Game 4, especially, was the Pelicans rookie’s magnus opus. Herb Jones was given the unenviable task of guarding Chris Paul in Games 3 and 4. Paul notoriously ate forwards for breakfast in his entire career. His immaculate Game 3 only seemed to spell doom for Jones.
And yet, Herb Jones bounced back, showing the world why he’s going to be a beast for years to come.
Shutting down Paul
In Game 4 of the Suns-Pelicans series, Jones revealed his final form. He allowed a few buckets from Paul here and there… and then, nothing. After scoring four points in six minutes, Chris Paul was unable to make a bucket against Herb Jones’ defense. Unbelievable. (via StatMuse)
Chris Paul scored 4 points in the first 6 minutes tonight.
He had 0 points in the last 42 minutes. pic.twitter.com/nU7BwkRGbS
— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 25, 2022
Unlike most forwards of his size, Jones is very agile, and he’s easily capable of keeping up with an older Paul on offense. If he wasn’t able to get past the Pelicans forward, Paul struggled to get a clean shot off. He was usually good for a couple of impossible-looking middys, but even those didn’t fall for him.
Jones was absolutely on fire on defense that entire game, forcing Paul to 3 turnovers after having none in the last two games. His closeouts have also been equally as menacing, as he’s blocking these rainbow threes like they were shots at the rim.
Herb Jones blocks ANOTHER three-pointer!
He has 3 blocks ❌#NBAPlayoffs presented by Google Pixel on TNT pic.twitter.com/KUBMFUKbxy
— NBA (@NBA) April 25, 2022
Jones’ defensive prowess has given the Pelicans franchise a reason to be excited for today and the future. Zion Williamson’s return will almost certainly make them one of the teams to beat next season based on their play this season. It’s all thanks to Jones holding down the fort on the other side of the ball.
The Suns need to find a way to try and limit Herb Jones’ impact on defense. At this point, he’s going to be completely invaluable to the Pelicans due to his defense alone. Whether it’s something drastic like freezing Jones out of possessions or simple screens to get him off of Paul, the Suns need to something. Anything.