Minnesota Timberwolves Player Review: Tyus Jones

DENVER, CO - APRIL 1: Tyus Jones. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - APRIL 1: Tyus Jones. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The fifth player in the Minnesota Timberwolves player review series is point guard Tyus Jones. The former Duke star set numerous career-highs during the 2017-18 season.

Tyus Jones is a Minnesota native and was the 2015 NCAA Tournament Outstanding Player after leading his Duke Blue Devils to the championship. That doesn’t mean much at the next level, of course, except for guaranteeing unwavering support from the fans in his home state.

The former Apple Valley High School superstar played in all 82 games this year as the primary backup point guard, although his minutes load was inconsistent. He started 11 games due to a couple of different injuries to regular starter Jeff Teague, but still only averaged 17.9 minutes per game on the season.

As a starter, Jones averaged 9.4 points, 4.9 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and a whopping 2.9 steals per game while logging a plus-minus of +18.4. He set career-highs in rebounding and steal rates, as well as shooting numbers; he set career-highs in field goal and free throw percentage, plus true shooting and effective field goal percentage.

There’s a small but vocal segment of the Timberwolves fanbase (much of Wolves Twitter, in fact) that feels as though Jones is the superior player to Jeff Teague. While there are certainly aspects of Jones’ game that are much more complementary to today’s game — and, ironically, Tom Thibodeau’s offensive and defensive systems — it’s okay to have a really good backup point guard, which is exactly what Minnesota has in Jones. And Teague is still a solid starter, so let’s not lose sight of that.

Jones did finish seventh among all point guards in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus (RPM) metric at 4.77, just behind Russell Westbrook and ahead of the likes of Jrue Holiday, Kemba Walker, Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving, and Ricky Rubio. He also posted more win shares per 48 minutes than Teague and a better box score plus-minus, according to Basketball-Reference.

While it would be foolish to take RPM (or any other metric, for that matter) as gospel, it’s notable that Jones ranks highly in a number of categories. Clearly, the impact he had on the court in his 17.9 minutes per game was positive, and given the rest of the bench unit he was playing alongside, it’s even more significant.

Jones’ numbers as a starter weren’t just better because his minutes were longer, but they were better because he was playing heavier minutes with the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler.

Jones has one more year on his rookie contract before becoming a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019. At $2.4 million next season, Jones is a bargain and arguably the best backup point guard value in the entire NBA.

He’s still just 22 years old, and the only thing holding him back from being a starter is his size (while Jones is overall a solid defender and an outstanding ball thief, size and length matter even more in today’s NBA with the emphasis placed on switchability) and opportunity.

Next: Timberwolves Player Review: Nemanja Bjelica

Any fans that have watched Jones during his first three years as a professional certainly wouldn’t put anything past him, however — especially not after this season.