Damian Jones

Warriors couldn't wait any longer for Damian Jones to prove himself

Warriors couldn't wait any longer for Damian Jones to prove himself

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.

[RELATED: Why Jones believes he has a "great opportunity" with the Hawks]

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. 

Why Damian Jones believes trade to Hawks will be 'great opportunity'

Why Damian Jones believes trade to Hawks will be 'great opportunity'

Damian Jones exited Sacramento's Golden 1 Center last week with a set of goals entering the summer: Finish a degree in chemical engineering from Vanderbilt, rectify an injury-riddled start to his career and enter a contract year for the Warriors in "attack mode."

The latter objective won't come to fruition as Jones was traded, along with a second-round draft pick, to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for second-year big man Omari Spellman Monday afternoon, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported through league sources.   

"I think it will be a great opportunity," Jones told NBC Sports Bay Area shortly after the trade. "It's a great young team and I think I'll be able to fit right in." 

The move reunites Jones with Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk, who was in the Warriors front office when Golden State drafted Jones No. 30 overall in the 2016 NBA draft.

The trade of Jones comes just a week after the Warriors signed Willie Cauley-Stein to a contract slightly above the veteran's minimum, which was agreed upon as Jones participated in the California Classic in Sacramento.

"I know that was always a possibility," Jones said. "I was just expecting that anything could happen." 

While his physical attributes marvel, injuries have undermined a promising young career. Twelve days before the 2016 NBA Draft, Jones tore his right pectoral muscle during a pre-draft workout with the Orlando Magic. With his rookie season all but lost, he toiled in the G-League in his second year, averaging 15 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for the Santa Cruz Warriors. 

Though he won the Warriors’ starting center in training camp 10 months ago, Jones again tore his pectoral in a Dec. 1 loss to the Detroit Pistons. While he returned during the playoffs, Jones struggled against the high-level playoff competition. He averaged just 0.8 points and two minutes in five games, prompting another appearance with the Warriors’ summer league team at his request. 

"It was kind of rocky, with the injury and things," Jones said. "But you know, just take it for what it is, and take it as a stepping stone."

[RELATED: Warriors reportedly add Alec Burks]

Now, Jones will enter the next phase of his career alongside a young core in Atlanta led by point guard Trae Young, who averaged 19.1 points and 8.1 assists in his rookie season. Most NBA observers see the Hawks as a team on the rise. With Jones, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana native, in the fold, a chance to revitalize his career awaits. 

"I mean, it's a good city. I think it's going to be very interesting being there," Jones said. "It's closer to home. And then it's in the South, so I think it'll be great."

Warriors trade Damian Jones, draft pick to Hawks for Omari Spellman

Warriors trade Damian Jones, draft pick to Hawks for Omari Spellman

The Damian Jones era in Golden State has come to an end.

The Warriors traded the big man and a second-round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for forward Omari Spellman.

The Athletic's Shams Charania was first to report the news

The Dubs selected Jones with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, and he made 25 appearances over his first two seasons combined.

Jones started 22 of Golden State's first 24 games last year, averaging 5.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.0 blocks before sustaining a torn left pectoral muscle on Dec. 1.

The Vanderbilt product returned in the Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, but essentially was out of the rotation.

Jones recently averaged 13.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in the Warriors' three Summer League games in Sacramento.

“Major opportunity,” he told Anthony Slater of the Athletic about next season. “Just approaching it as a contract year. Got a lot to prove.”

As for the player the Dubs acquired from Atlanta -- Spellman was the No. 30 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 5.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in 46 games as a rookie, while shooting 34.4 percent from deep.

The soon-to-be 22-year-old redshirted his freshman year at Villanova, and then averaged 10.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks when the Wildcats won the national championship in 2018.

[RELATEDReport: Warriors, Burks agree to terms on one-year contract]

Spellman shot over 43 percent from 3-point range on the season, and racked up 15 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks against Kansas in the Final Four.

He will be reuniting with college teammate Eric Paschall, who the Warriors selected at No. 41 overall in last month's draft.

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