He’s funny, intelligent, likable, athletically gifted and leaving.
After three years, the Warriors no longer were willing to wait for Damian Jones the tremendous athlete to become a reliable basketball player.
Not when they could trade the 7-foot center for a potentially better player, while also getting some financial breathing room.
On Monday morning, Jones was sent, along with a 2026 second-round draft pick, to the Hawks for 6-9 forward/center Omari Spellman. The Warriors selected Jones with the 30th overall pick in the 2016 draft. Atlanta chose Spellman at No. 30 in the 2018 draft.
The Warriors knew from the start that Jones, a Vanderbilt product, would be a project. He’s a terrific vertical spacer, able to gobble and jam lobs 20 inches above the rim.
He also was prone to biting on pump fakes and committing fouls in bunches. What doomed him more than anything else, though, was a lack of court awareness. On a team with so many players having a sense of space and timing and anticipation, Jones stood out for having little of any. There was nothing to indicate he would change.
So off he goes to Atlanta, closer to his native Louisiana, where he will reunite with Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk, who was hired away from the Warriors front office 11 months after the team drafted Jones.
Spellman also is reuniting with a familiar face. He was a star at Villanova, where he was teammates with current Warriors rookie Eric Paschall on the 2018 national championship team.
Just as Jones is a work in progress, so is Spellman. The difference, however, is that Spellman’s biggest hurdle is conditioning. Listed at 260 pounds in college, he conceded that his weight reached 293 over the holidays before he lost 22 pounds under the watchful eye of a Hawks staff that includes former Warriors fitness chief Chelsea Lane.
Put simply, Spellman as a rookie ate his way out of an opportunity – and to the G-League.
But Spellman, who turns 22 this month, has undeniable skills. He has a smooth stroke that extends beyond the arc. He’s suited to the pick-and-pop game. He’s a solid rebounder. His $1.9 million salary also is $400,000 less than that of Jones.
If he can keep his weight under control, he’s capable of contributing in his first season as a Warrior.
With his arrival and the departure of Jones, more than half the roster of the 2018-19 Warriors roster has been flipped.
Jones is the fourth big man and eighth member to leave this summer. Center DeMarcus Cousins has signed with the Lakers, center/forward Jordan Bell if off to the Timberwolves and center Andrew Bogut went back into retirement/free agency.
Also gone: forward Kevin Durant (to the Nets), forward/guard Andre Iguodala (Grizzlies), guard Quinn Cook (Lakers) and forward Jonas Jerebko is on the market.
A ninth player, veteran guard Shaun Livingston remains on the roster but likely will retire.