The Most Underrated 2022 Rookie (11/5/21)

New Orleans Pelicans: Where positional battles stand so far

When you’re thinking of the best rookies so far this season, you probably think about Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, Scottie Barnes, Chris Duarte, or Josh Giddey. Those are valid choices. 

There’s another guy who I think deserves to be in that conversation. He’s played at an All-Rookie level, and a lot of fans probably don’t even know his name. 

That guy is the 35th overall pick, Herb Jones. 

Herb is a combo forward for the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s been starting while Zion is sidelined.

Herb’s claim to fame is defense. He’s already the best defender on his team, and he’s just 8 games into his rookie season. His on-off defensive RAPTOR is +5.4, meaning the Pelicans are significantly better on D when he is in the game.

He’s 6’8″, and he uses his 7’0″ wingspan to be a menace in the passing lanes. He’s snagged 9 steals across his first 8 games, and he had 2+ in 3 of those games.

Here he gets beat, but stays active and erases Ant’s pass.

Don’t let that clip fool you, though. Herb’s not just a ball hawk. He clamps guys up, and is already guarding some of the best players in the league. His teammate Trey Murphy calls him “Straitjacket” for a reason.

Here’s a list of players who’ve been locked up by Herb “Straitjacket” Jones:

Devin Booker: 20% FG (1-5)

Julius Randle: 33% FG (1-3), 1 TOV

Anthony Edwards: 20% FG (2-10), 3 TOV (across two games)

That’s a solid list, and it will only get bigger as the season continues.

Herb is a beast on defense, but his offense has been somewhat lackluster. He’s no Andre Roberson, but the in order for Herb to become a consistent starter in the league he’ll need to progress as a scorer.

The big key for Herb on offense is confidence. He’s efficient around the rim (67% from 0-3 feet so far this year. A little over half of his shots have come from that range), so I think taking more shots is all it will take for him to become a two-way threat.

His jumpshot is a work in progress (He’s just 1-5 from three to start his career, and he shot 29% from deep over his four season at Alabama), but nothing in his shot suggests he can’t become at least a league-average shooter one day.

Overall, Herb has come out of the gate as a very solid NBA player. His defensive impact has been huge, and he’s earned his starting role. He’s got a shot at making an All-Defensive team one day, and I’m putting you on now so you’re not surprised when it happens.

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