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Pelicans rookie Herb Jones draws praise from Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley

Donovan Mitchell praises Herb Jones’ defense and predicts a long and fruitful career for the New Orleans rookie.

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New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbert Jones, wearing red, moves the ball down court against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert

New Orleans Pelicans forward Herbert Jones (5) moves the ball down court against Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (27) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. (

Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

Donovan Mitchell always gives the box score a quick scan when he comes into the interview room after a game.

Sometimes he’s looking at minutes, turnovers, how many points the Jazz held a player to — it varies from one night to the next what his eye goes to first.

So on Monday night, as Donovan looked over the stat sheet, I asked him what he was looking for. There were a couple of things that stood out, but what didn’t stand out on the stat sheet, what often isn’t highlighted in a box score, is defense. In particular, the Utah Jazz guard wanted to give a shoutout to New Orleans Pelicans rookie Herb Jones.

“I think he’s gonna be in this league for a long time,” Mitchell said of Jones. “I’ve got to give him his props. He’s made it tough on me every night we’ve played them. He’s he’s a guy that doesn’t talk much and doesn’t say much, but he goes out there and competes. Tonight he was 4-of-8 for 11 points, but defensively he’s tough.”

That’s high praise for a rookie tasked with guarding a dynamic and experienced scorer like Mitchell.

Jones made his 25th start of the season on Monday night and although the Pelicans didn’t get the win, falling 115-104 to the Jazz, Jones continues to be a beacon of future hope for a Pelicans team that has struggled this season and dropped to 13-24 on the season for the second worst record in the Western Conference.

“I think he’s gonna be in this league for a long time. I’ve got to give him his props. He’s made it tough on me every night we’ve played them. — Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell on Herb Jones

Through 33 NBA games, Jones is averaging 14.3 points, 6.5 points, 3.2 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.8 blocks per 100 possessions. Jones was a rookie that I had my eye on as the draft was approaching, and one I thought might have worked well for the Jazz. He ended up dropping to the second round, with the Pelicans selecting him 35th overall.

“I think he’s been phenomenal,” Jazz guard Mike Conley said. “For a young guy to come in and take the challenge of guarding guys like Donovan and some of the best players in the league, the way he moves his body, the way he’s able to do the things he does. Obviously he’s a natural defender but it seems like he really watches film and really studies the game. It’s been fun to compete against him ... he’s been he’s been a bright spot for that team.”

Jones’ teammates always have positive things to say about him and he’s earned their trust through the first third of his first season in the league, but sometimes the compliments are notable when they’re coming from the opposing teams and the players that you are defending.