Perhaps it’s a miracle that Tyus Jones is still on the Timberwolves. After reports stating Jones was considering asking for a trade at the end of the season, sweet talker Tom Thibodeau convinced him otherwise. I can only imagine Thibodeau calmly telling the 2015 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player that he will get more minutes next season. However, will Thibs stay true to his word and play Tyus the minutes he deserves? Doubtful. Anyway, Tyus did enough last season that proved he belonged in the NBA, and after being a part of the best statistical Timberwolves lineup last season, Jones might have a case to be the starting point guard.
Tyus Jones is 22-years-old. Going into his fourth season in the NBA, Jones has already made great strides in his NBA career. As the 24th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, many NBA fans were doubtful Jones could succeed in the league because of his size. Standing at just 6’ 1” (probably generous), Jones makes up for his lack of size in other areas of his game.
As a rookie, Jones appeared in just 37 games. He managed just 4.2 points and 2.9 assists per game in those contests he played in. In his second season, and his first under Tom Thibodeau, Jones’ games played increased to 60. However, playing just 12.9 minutes a night, Jones managed to muster just 3.5 points and 2.6 assists per game. Last season, Jones took a big step. In his first season as the primary backup point guard for the Wolves, Tyus appeared in every regular season game. Jones increased his minutes to 17.9 a night and even recorded some starts when Jeff Teague was down with an injury. Posting 5.1 points and 2.8 assists a night, Tyus had his best statistical season. However, it was his advanced stats that did the talking.
Tyus Jones was by no means a top point guard in the NBA last season. However, he was a serviceable backup, and even better when he got run with the starters. In his 11 starts last season, Tyus averaged 9.4 points and 4.9 assists per game. Even more impressive was the fact that the Timberwolves’ starters with Tyus Jones had the best net rating over any other lineup the Wolves ran last season. In addition, it wasn’t a small sample size. Tyus logged over 261 total minutes with the Wolves’ starters during the 2017/18 season. The team net rating alone makes an interesting case for Tyus to get more time with the starters, and maybe even move into the starting rotation.
Is Tyus Jones a great individual defender? No. But, he is a great team defender, and team defense goes a long way in the NBA. Tyus isn’t great at containing guys one-on-one. I mean it’s pretty difficult to contain 6’ 4” athletic freaks at point guard in the NBA. However, Tyus is good at jumping in passing lanes, and he has a knack for creating turnovers. Per 36 minutes last season, Tyus averaged 2.3 steals per game. In his 11 starts with the Wolves, he recorded 2.9 steals per game, including a whopping seven steals in a win against Phoenix. Coach Thibs loves defense, and while Tyus isn’t always the biggest plus defender, he plays enough team defense to prove his worth on that end of the court.
Improvements that need to be made
The biggest area that Tyus Jones needs to improve is shooting the basketball. If Tyus wants to be a starter in the NBA, with his body type, he needs to be able to knock down shots. A career 34.1% from three isn’t going to cut it. If Tyus was to start for the Wolves, he would be playing off the ball a lot. When Jones plays off the ball, he needs to hit consistently from three with open looks.
In reality, Tyus Jones won’t be starting for the Timberwolves this season, unless Jeff Teague goes down with an injury. Teague is a veteran in the NBA and is too good on the offensive side of the ball to come off the bench. But, Tyus needs more minutes, especially with the starters. If that means getting closer to splitting minutes with Teague, then that’s what needs to happen. If that means playing alongside Teague at times, that’s okay as well. Thibs needs to get more creative with lineup combinations this season, something he’s always been hesitant to do, especially with young players. Tyus can make a great impact on the 2018-19 Minnesota Timberwolves, he just needs the opportunity.