Dad: Jones will make NBA decision next week
USF guard Dominique Jones has until May 8 to decide if he'll enter the NBA draft or return for his senior year with the Bulls, but his father said Wednesday that he will announce his decision early next week.
"He's very confident with his position, that he would get drafted in the first round," Norman Jones said. "The question is what is the possibility of his improving his position in the draft (as a senior). He knows how good they could be next year."
By announcing next week, Jones would be doing USF coach Stan Heath a considerable favor -- the spring signing period starts Wednesday, and Heath would either know he has the Big East's leading scorer back next year, or would be able to sell top recruits on a major playing opportunity, with several coveted players at shooting guard and small forward still considering the Bulls.
Jones' father said his son has had a lot of interest from NBA teams, including the Miami Heat, which have their own first-round pick and Toronto's, both likely around the 17th selection. Another team he mentioned is Memphis, which has Denver and the Lakers' first-round picks, both likely in the final 10 picks of the first round. Washington, which has Cleveland's first-rounder, likely the 30th pick, has also shown interest.
"I'm more proud of him for the way he's handled this," his father said. "The way he's going about it, everything has gone really well. He's coming up with a very mature decision, and he's getting great feedback. You see your little boy grow up into a man."
I've talked to several people familiar with the draft in the last few days, and what I'm hearing is that Jones is likely to be picked between the 21st and 40th picks. Even if he's not taken in the first round, going in the first half of the second round generally translates to making an NBA roster -- of the first 14 picks in last year's second round, all but two have earned at least bench roles with their teams, with the other two playing in Europe. (Going after 44th, by comparison, isn't a good thing -- only one of the final 16 picks in last year's draft has stuck all season with the team that drafted him.)
Jones' position in the draft is certainly a moving target, if only because of the other underclassmen making the same decisions -- Wednesday alone brought five players from Kentucky, Cincinnati freshman Lance Stephenson and Kansas freshman Xavier Henry and others.
His father doesn't want to say which way his son is leaning, but the fact that he's announcing a decision about the draft earlier than he has to would suggest he's confident in what he's hearing about his draft status. "Everything has been very positive," he said, noting that he's heard from Stu Jackson, the former coach who now works as the NBA's executive vice president for operations.
ESPN.com's Chad Ford, who has had Jones ranked 62nd in his draft database, noted that he's "on the first-round bubble" in his latest update of underclassmen considering entering the draft.
The May 8 deadline is a month earlier than in previous years, and requires underclassmen to make their decisions before the league's official workout camp in Chicago or other opportunities to improve their draft position.
If Jones were selected in the first round, he would be the first USF player to do so. The highest any Bulls player has ever been picked was center Solomon Jones, who went 33rd to the Hawks in the 2006 draft and is now in his fourth NBA season.