Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones‘ rookie season was separated into two very distinct parts by the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.
Before the break, Jones played in just 10 of the team’s 54 games, receiving most of his minutes in garbage time situations and averaged three points and 1.9 assists in 11 minutes per game. He also shot just 33.3 percent from the field but hit on a very good 40 percent of his three-point attempts.
After the break, Jones was handed the backup point guard job as Zach LaVine was inserted into the starting lineup. Jones appeared in 27 of the 28 games following the league-wide hiatus, averaging 17.3 minutes, 4.7 points, 3.3 assists, and one steal in those games.
He improved his field goal percentage, shooting 36.8 percent from the floor, but his three-point shooting took a hit as he converted only 27.7 percent of those attempts.
However, if we take out a game against the Clippers in which he shot just 1-10 from the field and a horrendous 0-7 from deep, his percentages jump up to 39.1 percent overall and 34.1 percent from behind the arc after the break. Of course, that shows how small the sample is when one game affects his numbers so much, but that game was a clear outlier when compared to his other performances this season.
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The offense wasn’t as smooth with Jones running the show, but he also spearheaded some offensively-challenged bench units. Jones seemed confident when bringing the ball up court; he kept his head up, scanned the defense, and usually got everyone in position to start the play. It was after that point when the second unit seemed to get lost, but that is on everyone, not just the point guard.
Jones seemed convinced that he could get the offense running and they would score points even if it didn’t always work out that way, which was encouraging to see from him.
Overall, however, Tyus didn’t show a whole lot. He didn’t do many great things on the court, but he also didn’t make many glaring mistakes. He only averaged 0.9 turnovers per game on the season, giving him an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.2:1, comparable to Ricky Rubio‘s 3.48:1.
Jones was sent down to the D-League for a six-game stretch just before the calendar flipped to 2016, but he showed he was too talented for that level, averaging 24.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, and five assists.
Jones belongs in the league and he’ll likely head into next season with another chance to run the second unit. Tom Thibodeau has worked wonders with backup point guards in the past, from reviving Aaron Brooks’ career to getting a last run out of Nate Robinson to making John Lucas III a relevant name in one season. It will be interesting to see what he will be able to extract from Jones next season.
Tyus is still a month away from turning 20. He’ll continue to work on filling out his fix-foot-one frame, and as that happens, he should become a solid option. The way he commanded the offense at Duke in his lone season there was extremely impressive. Under Thibodeau, Jones will get a chance to prove that he can do that for the Timberwolves bench.