The Sixers' latest transaction suggests they're not willing to go down with what they're currently getting from the center position.

The team plans to sign former first-round pick Kai Jones to a 10-day contract, a league source confirmed to 97.3 ESPN on Thursday.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski was first to report the news.

Jones was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 19th overall pick in the 2021 draft. The Hornets waived Jones ahead of the 2023-24 season following concerning social media posts that included a public trade request.

The 6'11" Bahamas native logged two seasons with the Hornets, but really only played in his second campaign.

His basic output in that season was equivalent to that of an end-of-bench player. But, one of the good things about more advanced metrics is that they help you stumble upon players that have upside even if their previous opportunities were limited.

Jones registered a block rate of 2.5 percent and a steal rate of 1.3 percent - ranking in the 79th and 72nd percentiles amongst bigs, respectively - in 468 minutes in the 2022-23 season.

According to Cleaning The Glass, Jones shot 81 percent - 43-for-53 - at the rim that season, ranking in the 95th percentile for bigs in that campaign. Perhaps as eye-turning is that he had an and-one rate of 53.8 percent, which ranked in the 98th percentile for his position.

Sure, the sample size is small if you take a macro-level view. But, if you scale it to Jones' total volume of shots - 56 percent of his attempts came at the rim; 81 percent of his shots came between the rim and the free throw line - you're suddenly thinking about an athletic big who is strong with the ball.

The advanced numbers aren't all kind.

For as above the average as Jones was in the disruptor categories on defense, he struggled to defend without fouling (his 4.6-percent rate ranked in the 35th percentile). His rebounding rates, on average, ranked below the 40th percentile for his position.


That's at least reasonably concerning given that the Hornets ranked in the 11th percentile in effective field goal percentage and in the 88th percentile in effective field goal percentage allowed when Jones was on the court last season. So, it certainly is not like the rebounding opportunities weren't there when Jones was in games.

He also had 15 assists against 31 turnovers last season; not only a negative assist-to-turnover ratio, but negative by worse than minus-2.0:1.

Whatever Philadelphia is evaluating when divvying up minutes at the center position, rebounding prowess needs to be front and center. Lord knows the problems on the defensive glass have proven fatal for this team with Embiid sidelined over the last month, and Jones simply has not graded well in that department at all.

But, you watch the way he plays the game - with energy, touch around the rim, force, long strides towards the basket, and feel for his size and athleticism - and you see upside underneath the blue hair.

The question shouldn't be about how interesting of a dynamic he adds to what the Sixers are or aren't getting from Paul Reed and Mo Bamba.

It should be about whether he needs some support beyond the basketball court, whether he's gotten that support between when he was cut by Charlotte and now, and whether he's going to get in his own way if his time in Philadelphia extends beyond the 10-day contract.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter for the Sixers if Nick Nurse and his staff refuse to put Jones on the court. In Philadelphia's case, these 10-day deals don't often go beyond those terms because the powers that be don't actually give the player a chance to show what they can do in real games.

The Hornets have never been a model of great developmental culture, and Jones' stint there should not serve as an end-all for who he is as a player. He's in the Sixers' building now; all they have to do is give him a chance to show that there's something worth tapping into.

At this point, they have absolutely nothing to lose.

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