After a long and mostly dreadful offseason thus far, the Washington State Cougars have made a huge splash. Actually, make that two huge splashes as they sign Isaiah Watts and Isaac Jones.
Jones is the biggest get of the two and probably the biggest name WSU could’ve hoped for from the portal. He is an obvious, immediate replacement for the recently departed Adrame Diongue and he projects as the starting center whether Mouhamed Gueye returns or not. If Gueye returns, he can slide back to the power forward spot that he played as a freshman and WSU’s defense can return to its usual two-big alignment.
Jones started his college career at Wenatchee Valley Community College, a fairly small JUCO that is not known for producing high-major talent. However, Jones dominated that level, averaging 25 points per game on an absurd 70.9% true shooting.
After his community college career, Jones transferred to Moscow to play for the Idaho Vandals. At Idaho, he continued his dominance to an even more absurd degree. He averaged 19.4 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.7 assists on 65.3% true shooting. He also boasted an 8.6% offensive rebound rate, a 3.8% block rate, and he scored an insane 1.2 points per possession on post-ups.
The former Vandal moves only about 8 miles across a state line, but he is taking a big jump in competition level. It is easy to worry about that jump, but Jones’ game scales well. WSU will provide much more spacing than he had at Idaho, an offense built to his strengths, and better all-around playmakers to get him the ball. While the post-up efficiency might take a slight step down, he is likely to be an even more deadly roll-man with the space around him and there is a world where he leads all of Division 1 in dunks.
Jones dunked 63 times last year and his springs are impressive. He gets off the ground quickly and he should be deadly in pick-and-roll situations. He also shot 71.5% on close 2s last season, which shows off his impressive touch and skill around the basket.
Jones projects as a potentially All-Pac-12 caliber player in the Crimson and Grey. He is a complete offensive big and he should excel as a roll-man, post-scorer, and as a dribble-handoff operator. He can score near the rim and he might surprise some as a passer.
Watts was a surprising commit, but the former Seton Hall commit is a huge freshman addition. I wrote an in-depth breakdown of Watts and his game when he was playing for Seattle Rotary a year ago and it can be read, for free, here.
Watts is yet another guard recruit who hangs their hat on the defensive end. Watts has quick hands and long arms that combine with his elite instincts and movement skills to make him a high-level defender on and off the ball. He should help contribute to a high-level defense early in his career and he could be an all-defense caliber guard by his second or third season in Pullman.
Offensively, Watts is a bit of a combo guard who will need to be molded by WSU’s staff on that end. His jumper is streaky, but at it’s best, he is a knockdown shot-creator. His go-to step-back is dirty and he is advanced at coming in on transition jumpers. He is likely a sub-elite shooter, but it would be shocking if he is not a good spacer moving forward.
Watts is an ambitious and creative passer, especially in transition. His handle excels in isolation as it is legitimately deceptive, but it is loose and he struggles in the tighter confines of the pick-and-roll. His burst allows him tog et out of moves well, but he struggles to get all the way to the rim and he prefers to hunt pull-up and step-back jumpers off-the-dribble.
Watts is a great get for Smith and staff with a lot of high-end upside as a shot-creator and defender. He could provide value early as a 3-and-D shooting guard who juices the transition attack. Getting legitimate depth is huge for WSU, especially one with this high of upside.
The state of the current WSU roster still seems in some flux as they await decisions from Mouhamed Gueye and Justin Powell. If both return, the roster is set and there is no more movement to be had. However, if one or both of those move on to the professional ranks, then their scholarship spots will have to be replaced. This could be with an Adam Njie reclassification, another portal addition, or an international freshman in the vein of Kymany Houinsou.
No matter what happens with the rest of the roster, WSU got two huge commitments today that are going to contribute to winning basketball. Jones is a high-level scorer who will excel in WSU’s spacing and Watts is a high-upside grab who could contribute early. The transfer portal has thrown some punches, but Kyle Smith and staff always manage to get back up and stay fighting.
Welcome to WSU Isaiah and Isaac!