Second-year Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones is oft-mentioned as a likely trade candidate, but there’s also a case to be made for keeping the Minnesota native in the fold moving forward.
It’s time to move on from Ricky Rubio. Timberwolves fans have had five-plus years to watch his progression, or lack thereof.
Yes, he’s dazzled with amazing court vision and his creative passing ability while earning some SportsCenter Top Plays along the way. However, where the Minnesota Timberwolves want to go, he simply can’t take them.
But this is not about Rubio, nor is it about Kris Dunn, who I still firmly believe, with work, has a chance to be special in this league. The focus today is on who will occupy the all-important but underappreciated backup point guard spot for the Wolves going forward.
Yes, I’m talking about Tyus Jones. The Minnesota native and former Duke product has continued to show improvement from year-to-year and even game-to-game when given the opportunity to play.
During Las Vegas Summer League this past July, the second-year guard balled out with 20.4 points and a league leading 6.8 assists per game. He was voted Summer League MVP before dropping 27 points and 10 assist to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Las Vegas Summer League Championship.
Now while I realize that’s just summer league, it’s still some of the best competition in the world outside of the NBA regular season. And for those screaming: “what about the D-League?!!”, summer league features a D-League All-Star team as well as NBA players and plenty of international-caliber players. And speaking of the D-League, don’t forget he made his debut for the Idaho Stampede in the 2015-16 season by scoring 27 points, eight assist and six rebounds and went on to average 24.7 points and five assists per game in his six-game stint on the roster.
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It’s known that Tom Thibodeau is reluctant to play younger players in place of veterans, and with a team already littered with the youngest roster in the NBA, I understand his hesitation. However, when given a chance to play, Jones has looked confident running the team and unlike his counterparts, possesses an already decent jump shot that can easily grow into consistency with time.
In the small sample we’ve been given, Jones is shooting 43.5 percent from three and 44 percent on jump shots this season. In addition, his 3.28 career assist-to-turnover ratio would currently rank him in the top-10 in the league this year.
On the other side, and like most young players, he struggles on the defensive end, posting a rating of 110 during his rookie year and 111 in limited time this season, however limited that statistc may be.
Although he has struggled in this area, he shows the quickness and acumen to get it done on that end of the court; as was the case in his five-steal performance against the Brooklyn Nets on November 8th, which coincidentally was his most extensive playing time thus far this season with 32 minutes.
If Dunn is indeed the future of the point guard position, then Tyus Jones needs to be right beside him running the second unit. When I watch him play, I envision him eventually filling a role similar to that of Cory Joseph of Toronto Raptors — one in which he can come off the bench to supplement the starter, and push the tempo of the offense while being versatile enough to defend both guard positions.
Like Joseph, Jones is a smart basketball player and does a good job balancing between scoring and distributing the ball to his teammates. He can create for himself using his quick first step, come off screens and has the ability to space the floor when the ball isn’t in his hands. Tyus is similar in size, in that he’s a smaller guard, but needs to develop the grit that Joseph carries with him night-in and night-out to fulfill such a role but based on what I’ve seen so far that shouldn’t be a problem.
With all that said, there’s a realistic possibility that Tyus Jones won’t be on the team at the conclusion of this year’s trade deadline; the Timberwolves are in the unfortunate position of having many needs and not a lot of realistic-but-valuable trade assets.
There are clear deficiencies in their lineup of big men and their bench unit has been terrible; not to mention the lack of impactful veterans on the team. Current players will have to be moved in order for other positions to get filled, and when you’re the third string point guard, typically your name is close to the top of that list.
The above is my case for why Tyus Jones shouldn’t be an expendable asset because he deserves to be a part of the Timberwolves’ future. With the help of an underachieving season to this point, the future is now for the Minnesota Timberwolves.