The Wolves have an interesting statistical situation in their backup backcourt.
Whenever at full strength — or, at least, when Jeff Teague is healthy — Thibs subs Jamal Crawford into the game in the late part of the first quarter. A few possessions after that, he subs Tyus Jones in to join him in the second-unit backcourt. Thibs famously does not play his bench much, but each backup guard is averaging over 18 minutes per game. In Tyus’s case, that would be lower if not for the stretch when Teague was injured and he was put into the starting lineup.
Overall this season, Crawford has played 862 minutes and Jones has played 855. Together as a pairing, they’ve played 526 minutes. That means each has played about 61 percent of their total minutes next to the other and about 39 percent of their total minutes with a different backcourt teammate.
In light of the heavy minutes Jones and Crawford play together, the team’s on/off splits show a striking contrast:
Tyus leads the “on court” column for the entire team, with a season net rating of (+10.5). The Wolves outscore opponents by 10.5 points per 100 possessions when Jones plays. One would expect, then, that Crawford’s “on” rating would also be somewhat high, considering how much he plays with Tyus.
Not the case.
Crawford comes in last place of the team’s regular 9-man rotation, with a season net rating of (-5.8).
This dichotomy hardly seems possible.
The “off” column is more damning to Crawford, as he “leads” the entire team with an off rating of (+10.4). In other words, when Crawford is on the bench, the Wolves outscore opponents by 10.4 points per 100 possessions.
In regular person terms:
When Tyus Jones is on the floor, regardless of his teammates, the Wolves perform like a top-tier NBA team. When Jamal Crawford is on the floor, regardless of teammates, the Wolves perform like a bottom-tier NBA team. And almost two thirds of each player’s playing time is spend together!
Let’s dig just a tiny bit deeper on this point.
When Jamal and Tyus play together — again, this is about 61 percent of each guy’s total burn — the lineups get outscored by 2.1 points per 100 possessions. Not good, but nothing catastrophic.
When Jamal plays without Tyus, the Wolves are outscored by 11.5 points per 100 possessions. This is really bad, and regular Wolves watchers know that Thibs has tried staggering Jamal in with the team’s starting (read: good) players, many times this year. All in all, that’s been a big failure.
What about when Tyus plays without Jamal? How have those minutes — 39 percent of his season total — gone for the Wolves?
When Tyus Jones plays without Jamal Crawford next to him, the Wolves have outscored opponents by 30.9 points per 100 possessions. That incredible sample of ass-kicking spans 329 minutes of action. In that time the Wolves outscored opponents by 150 points.
While I have become increasingly frustrated with Thibs’s ignorance (through his actions, anyway) of Tyus’s added value to the team, as much attention should be paid to the harm that Crawford has caused on the floor. It comes through all of the team numbers, and the eye test draws pretty clear conclusions on why: he’s a poor defender and a ball-stopping offensive player who attempts a lot of difficult shots. J-Crossover has had a great career and a few really nice games for the Wolves this year, but he soon turns 38 years old and might be about cooked as a playable rotation player. Any remaining contributions to this team might be best made in the locker room and on the road in the plane, acting as a mentor figure.
Whether this gets addressed via trade or rotation change remains to be seen, but the Wolves have a strange dichotomy within their backup backcourt.