Tyus Jones wasn’t a flashy signing but his youth, steady play and the value his contract provides could make him a huge steal for the Grizzlies.
One of the big offseason questions for the Timberwolves was whether the team would retain Tyus Jones. The Grizzlies signed Jones to an offer sheet on Sunday night and the Timberwolves declined to match the three-year deal worth up to $28 million.
This isn’t a signing that moves the needle dramatically for the Grizzlies, but it is one that fortifies the team’s point guard rotation. It’s understandable if you haven’t watched much of Jones in the four years since leaving Duke but the Grizzlies are getting a solid, young point guard. There are several reasons that this was a wise move for Memphis.
Jones is still young
The big thing for Memphis is that Jones turned 23 years old in May, that keeps him on the timeline of their young core. Sure, $9.3 million is a respectable chunk of change for a team that just drafted Ja Morant as its point guard of the future, but Jones isn’t the type of player who relies on taking a ton of shots.
Realistically, it may be three years before the Grizzlies are players in free agency anyway. Jones’ contract is fair enough that it’s tradable if they needed to move it for some reason. The big thing, however, is that Jones will be 25 years old when the contract expires in 2022 and Memphis currently has only Kyle Anderson on the books for that season.
Jones can play with other point guards
One of the most interesting things that came out of the Tom Thibodeau era in Minnesota was Jeff Teague pleading with Tom Thibodeau to play Jones more and even with him. While Teague and Jones never played a minute together, Jones played nearly one-third of his 1,500 minutes last season with Derrick Rose. Considering Rose played barely half the season, that’s a good amount of time.
Lineups involving Jones and Rose outscored opponents despite not offering much shooting. These lineups also committed fewer turnovers than the opposition.
If Memphis envisions playing Jones with Morant and having two ball handlers on the floor, there are situations that can be effective. Jones doesn’t need to be the featured guy, which will allow for Morant to do his thing. The presence of two ball handlers on the floor should make the Grizzlies’ offense more dynamic.
Jones rarely makes mistakes
Among the most common mistakes people make when assessing Jones’ performance is just looking at his basic stats. That’s not where you’re going to learn about what Jones brings to a team. Sure, you want Tyus’ to make closer to 35 percent of his 3-pointers than the 31 percent he made in 2019. There are also other ways for a player to impact a game.
In basketball, you don’t want to waste possessions and if anything, you want to create additional possessions. Last season, Jones accounted for 28 percent of his team’s assists when he was on the floor while accounting for just nine percent of his team’s turnovers. Guess who the only two players were to have an assist percentage greater than 28 and a turnover percentage below 10 percent last season? Jones and Mike Conley.
According to Synergy Sports Jones also had the NBA-best assist-to-turnover ratio of 6.7 in the half court and 8.0 in transition last season. With a young team like the Grizzlies, having another point guard who can keep his turnovers to a minimum while putting his teammates in positions to succeed will help them greatly.
So, why are the Wolves letting him go?
The Timberwolves’ payroll is in a tough spot with the contracts of Gorgui Dieng and Andrew Wiggins. That, in itself, created a pinch for the team since matching the deal would have put them within $1 million of the luxury tax for a team with a 35-win ceiling. However, that doesn’t change anything about the money and term of Jones’ contract or his on-court play.
Another potential factor is that the new Timberwolves front office did not draft Jones. Jones was in Flip Saunders’ last draft class with Karl-Anthony Towns. In the years after, Jones had to show Tom Thibodeau that he belonged on the floor and finally earned consistent playing time last season.
What is for sure is that Jones comes to Memphis eager and excited to be a Grizzly. Jones should be able to slot in nicely with the other slightly-younger Grizzlies.