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."
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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."