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Former Cat Jones impressing in NBA Summer League

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Terrence Jones joined the 1,000-point club in just two seasons at Kentucky. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Terrence Jones joined the 1,000-point club in just two seasons at Kentucky. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
With their signing of star free agent Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets have been the talk of the NBA this offseason. Houston surprised last year, reaching the playoffs, and many believe the addition of Howard will push them into the NBA's elite.

Not figuring much into conversation about the Rockets has been Terrence Jones. Houston took him at No. 18 in last year's draft and he spent his rookie season bouncing between the D-League and the Rockets - the path General Manager Daryl Morey often opts to use with his first-year players.

But if the NBA Summer League is any indication, the Rockets will be hard-pressed to keep Jones out of their rotation as they look to contend for a title in 2013-14.

Jones has led Houston to wins in all four of their games this summer, averaging 15.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 blocks and 0.8 steals. His biggest game came in the Summer League opener when he dominated in an 88-80 win over Philadelphia to the tune of 24 points and 12 rebounds. Check out highlights, an interview with Jones and the box score here.

Since that game - when he converted 9 of 13 from the field - he has struggled a bit with his shot, but has continued to produce by getting to the foul line. He has attempted seven or more free throws in three of his four games and got to the line 14 times in a 92-76 win over Brooklyn on Thursday.

Jones' play has people wondering what his role will be on the Rockets next season, including Brett Koremenos of Grantland:

Dwight Howard is all the rage in Houston right now, but with his signing (and even before it) the development of Terrence Jones has become a key story line. The Rockets offense hummed along last year thanks to an emphasis on spacing the floor and getting high-efficiency shots -- 3s, layups, and free throws -- early in the shot clock. The best offensive results for Houston often came when some type of stretch 4 (Marcus Morris and then later Chandler Parsons) was inserted into the lineup. When one of those two played power forward, it brought a player into the frontcourt that could be a threat from behind the arc and also attack the rim off the bounce. Parsons, however, can't be expected to man that position for an entire season, which is where Jones comes in.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward out of Kentucky has been a beast for Houston this week. Jones has spent the majority of his time living at the free throw line, bullying his way to 29 attempts through three games, including 14 yesterday against Boston. Jones is enough of a threat from the 3-point line (he's 2-of-5 this week beyond the arc) that defenders must play him for both a shot and drive. When given the opportunity to attack a closing defender, Jones has showed off an ability to attack in straight-line drives with both speed and power to great results. His finishing could use some work, as Jones virtually never uses his off hand (he's had one right-hand attempt by my unofficial count), and it costs him a handful of layups and three-point-play opportunities. But even with that drawback, Jones has easily been one of the best players here this week and is making a strong case to belong in the Rockets rotation.

Jones had his moments last season, getting substantial minutes in April when he played in Houston's final eight regular-season games, scoring in double figures four times as the Rockets made their push for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. Second-year players often see the biggest bump in production, so Jones could be in line for a breakout season on a really good team.

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