The Tyus Jones Experiment
When the Timberwolves traded the 31st and 36th overall picks for the rights to Minnesota native Tyus Jones, people saw the decision in different ways.
For some (including myself), the pick/trade brought in a player with relatively decent amounts of potential to contribute right away for the Timberwolves. Others saw Jones less as a good prospect, and more as a prospect from Minnesota.
Understandably, this might be enough to get the most casual of the Minnesota sports fanbase excited. In other words, he’s a nice marketing tool in the short-term, even if he doesn’t work out in the long-term.
That’s what some critics of the pick have made mention of. While Jones was unquestionably a reasonable pick at 24, and a need-filler for the Timberwolves, there were other players at that spot (RJ Hunter comes to mind) that could have also made sense. On a similar note, it’s also unclear how available Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant (who went 19th – 5 picks ahead of Jones) was to the Timberwolves. Are the 31st and 36th picks more valuable to Atlanta than Tim Hardaway Jr.? I’ll let you answer that question yourself.
Lastly, the big question that has been all over the internet since the trade: If Tyus Jones wasn’t from Minnesota, does Minnesota trade up to get him?
My answer: Maybe…….. Okay, probably not, but he’s a pretty good pick for the Wolves either way.
Yes, Jones is a hometown guy, but he was also a pretty damn good college basketball player. He was key contributor on an excellent Duke roster, and at times played like the best point guard in the country. Putting his clutch championship game aside, Jones had 6 20+ point games despite his pass-first instincts. His regular season was good enough for an AP All-American Honorable Mention, despite Okafor frequently gobbling up lots of the shotclock, stats, and praise, near the hoop.
Jones’ 41 percent shooting from the field is no doubt alarming (as is his on-ball defense), but his high IQ combined with a new role player status should put him in better position to get open shots.
Was some his success a result of Jahlil Okafor’s dominance? Of course, but the Blue Devils didn’t dominate all season and end with the championship by exclusively riding Okafor’s coattails. While the offense was in Okafor’s hands, it was Jones’ job to get the ball thereTeams never win titles that way. Whether it was 70% Okafor or not, Jones showed excellent basketball IQ in the pick and roll, and had good recognition on when to take his shots. While too few of them went in on certain nights, his form didn’t seem to be the problem, and his jumper should work itself over time if he puts in the work.
Worst case scenario, he’s a short-term qualified backup point guard with good point guard skills, pretty good scoring instincts, and good speed. Unless he really flops, he should fit the bill. But he could also be better than that.
The trick here is, again, the Minnesota effect, and how the fans respond to Jones. In the scenario where Ricky Rubio struggles early, and Jones succeeds in limited minutes, there is certainly a chance that the casual fanbase could make an annoying narrative about Jones’ deserved increased minutes.
Even with the possibility of that reaction looming, the likelihood of Saunders responding to appease that crowd seems almost nonexistent. While part-owner Saunders will probably enjoy seeing ticket sales go up as part of the Jones trade, he did just sign Rubio to a multi-year extension of over $10 million per year. He’s not about to put that on the bench for the sake of a late first round pick.
Jones is from Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a good get late in the first round. He was going to go in that range regardless, and this trade would have been far less of a big deal had any other team made the trade.
Still it could end up getting annoying if too much of the wrong crowd overvalues Jones because of where he grew up.
So, for the sake of sanity in what could be an unbelievably fun Timberwolves future, let’s enjoy Tyus Jones as part of the roster this season, but keep our expectations in perspective.