Stats: 10.7 PTS, 4.8 REB, 1.3 STL, 1.2 BLK per game
Accolades: 2-time All-Star with PHI (1981 & 1982 games), 6-time All-NBA Defensive 1st team with PHI (1-time 2nd), 1982-1983 NBA Championship Team Member and Sixth Man of the Year Award winner
I find it appropriate that Bobby Jones ended up sixth on this list. He may have had a challenge for the top 5, but I like that as it is. Why? During his time in Philadelphia, Bobby Jones started most games from the bench. For a guy with at the least a borderline Hall of Fame case, that seems like it shouldn’t be the case.
It makes more sense when you look at the team as a whole. The starters were Mo Cheeks at the point, Andrew Toney at the 2-guard, Dr. J at the 3, Marc Iavaroni at the 4, and Moses at center. Not a bad lineup, though admittedly Iavaroni left much to be desired. The key is looking at the 2 and 3 spots, where Toney and Dr. J played. In today’s game, for the most part coaches have chosen to go with scorers off the bench and defenders in the starting 5. Think of Lou Williams or Jamal Crawford or James Harden – all of those are probably more talented scorers than their starting counterparts on their own teams, but their teams value scoring off the bench.
I don’t exactly know if the philosophy was different way back when. But you can tell why Jones came off the bench. He and Julius weren’t exactly the best shooters*. They weren’t horrible, and stretching the floor wasn’t as important back then (since almost on one took threes anyway), but Toney worked better beside those two as a scorer with some range and quickness. Bobby and Dr. J certainly played a fair amount together, but it wasn’t optimal with their skill sets.
*Despite his shooting percentages, which throughout his career were ridiculously high, as Curtis Harris pointed out on Hardwood Paroxysm, he didn’t have the best shooting motion. However, he took so many good, open shots that it didn’t matter. And by the way, you should definitely go read that profile after you’re done reading this. Or while you’re reading. Just go read it.
Anyway, back to the actual description of Jones and why I actually have him topping Toney despite playing behind him. The answer, as you might have guessed from looking at his accolades, is his defense. Everyone I’ve talked to about those early-80s Sixers tells me that Jones is, if not the best, one of greatest defenders they’ve ever seen. Now, as a whole you don’t want to just go off awards or people’s descriptions. That wouldn’t prove anything. But he did have consistently low Defensive Ratings early in his career in an era where every team scored 100 points per game, with 4 of 8 seasons of under-100 ratings. And for his career, he had a rating of 99. While it’s certainly not the best metric to use today or even back then, it does have Bobby Jones as one of the best.
Bobby Jones never averaged 30 minutes per game as a Sixer. He didn’t need to – he was so efficient in those 20-28 minutes that he helped the Sixers win a ton of games. Jones shot over 55% for his career and filled up the stat sheet with a starter’s offensive production and held down the fort with his all-NBA defense. He was pretty awesome – despite almost never starting, Jones ends up sixth on my list.