Matt Jones' scoring average dropped steeply to 7.0 points per game this year, but he usually found ...

Duke men's basketball 2016-17 player review: Matt Jones

Matt Jones

Season breakdown: In his final season with the Blue Devils, Jones stood apart from the plethora of explosive offensive weapons Duke boasted. In a year in which the Blue Devils struggled to live up to the hype that preceded their season and didn’t come together as a complete team until late in the year, Jones was one of just two players to appear in every game. Although he struggled with offensive consistency throughout the year, his hustle on defense and experience on the court was critical to help Duke move past injuries and off-court distractions.

Unlike his flashy, offensive-minded teammates, the captain earned his spot in the starting lineup on account of his superior defensive skills and leadership on the court. From the very beginning of the season, Jones matched up with opposing teams' top offensive threats, from Miles Bridges of Michigan State to Justin Jackson of North Carolina. His 63 steals led the Blue Devils by a wide margin, and his 41 turnovers on the other end of the floor were the fewest among players who saw significant time on the floor.

Jones started the season looking like yet another legitimate offensive threat for Duke, scoring in double figures for the first seven games of the season, including 11 against then-No. 7 Kansas and 13 against then-No. 21 Rhode Island. However, after scoring 10 in a blowout win against Appalachian State, the Desoto, Texas, native did not record double digits again for nearly a month and a half. He seemed to have found his groove early in ACC play, and was instrumental in a home comeback win against Miami that may have salvaged the Blue Devils’ season. But he struggled to maintain consistency for the remainder of ACC play, and entered the postseason having scored less than 10 points in eight of Duke’s final nine conference games.

The comeback win at home against Miami was one of Jones’ finest performances of the season. The Blue Devils were coming off back-to-back road losses to Louisville and Florida State, and trailed by 11 at the half. After the break, though, Jones brought the team back to life, knocking down three 3-pointers as part of a 20-0 run to swing the game back in Duke’s favor and save the Blue Devils from a potentially season-crushing home loss.

In the ACC tournament, Jones’ offensive struggles persisted, as he scored just eight points combined in the first three rounds of play. However, he made one of the biggest shots of the tournament in the championship game against Notre Dame with less than a minute left. After a pair of Notre Dame free throws cut the Blue Devils’ lead to one, Jones knocked down his first 3-pointer of the tournament to extend the lead to four and give Duke enough of a cushion to win its first ACC title since 2011.

Results relative to expectations: Although he regressed offensively and struggled to find his shot for long periods of the season, shooting just 34.2 percent from beyond the arc, Jones more than filled the role the team asked of him. A veteran leader who could shut down opposing teams’ stars was exactly what the Blue Devils needed as they struggled on the defensive end of the floor and battled through a series of disruptive injuries. With a number of the team’s most significant pieces leaving early, the absences of Jones and fellow veteran leader Amile Jefferson will be hard to replace next season. 

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