The Runner Sports

It’s Time For Tyus Jones To Step Up And Prove Himself

The Minnesota Timberwolves signed Jeff Teague after shipping Rubio to Utah and it’s clear that Teague will get the lion’s share of minutes and be the starting point guard in October. As of today, the only other point guard on the roster is former Duke Blue Devil Tyus Jones. The six-foot-two point guard has spent the last two seasons languishing on the end of the Wolves’ bench as the third-string point guard and was limited to mainly useless garbage minutes against other bench players. If the Wolves are to return to the playoffs after a 13-year absence, then they will need quality minutes out of their bench and in particular their backup point guard.

The Local kid with the skills to back it up

Jones has spent two years in Minnesota and has averaged four points, three assists, one steal, and shot 33% from three-point range and has never started a game. Yet, I feel that he has the necessary skills and attitude to succeed as the backup point guard at Target Center. Jones has shown considerable improvement throughout his career and impressed at last year’s Summer League, where he was heads and shoulders above opposing point guards. He won the regular season Summer League MVP and displayed the skills that are necessary for a backup point guard; he controlled the tempo of the game, made the right passes, and mastered the pick and roll offense.

The Timberwolves’ 2016-17 season was one of confusing contradictions as they had a top 10 offense and at the same time were dead last in scoring last season. The Wolves had 20 double-digit leads that they managed to blow and this contributed to a disappointing season that promised so much. What would happen is that the starting five would build up a big lead and the bench unit would come in and just collapse the lead, which would lead to the starting five coming back in the game prematurely. Because of that, the Wolves had two players in the top four who lead the league in minutes and the effects of this could be seen as the players looked fatigued at the end of games which led to mental mistakes in close games with devastating results

The bench unit starts with the point guard as it is their responsibility to come in, control the game, and setup easy baskets for players who struggle to create their own shots. The easiest way to create shots in the NBA is to run pick and rolls and get the opposing team to switch and get a favorable matchup that you as an offense can exploit. Tyus Jones ran pick and rolls a disappointing 31% of the time –which ranked him 80th in the NBA– which is not a high enough number for a player who is not known for excellent shooting or quickness to the rim. When Tyus is at his best as he demonstrated in Summer League, he is either running the fast break or running pick and rolls.

The clip below demonstrates what Tom Thibodeau will want Jones to do in his minutes as the backup point guard. He calls a screen and forces the lumbering big man to switch onto him which allows the faster and nimbler Jones to showoff his handles and delay enough to allow the original screener to get into the paint and finish with the two handed jam.

The Timberwolves’ best players are all young and the advantage of being young is that you have endless amounts of energy, so they need to run teams off the court; this can be achieved by pushing the ball on the fast break. In the clip below, Jones fights for the defensive rebound against the big man, pushes the ball and throws the perfect bounce pass to another player.

Can Tyus become a good defender?

Tyus is a below average defender who tries his best but he has physical limitations that prevent him from becoming a good defender. Tyus has posted a defensive rating of 111 two years in a row, which is problematic as you would expect a player in his sophomore season to display some improvement in defense as they begin to understand the nuances of NBA defense.

Tyus’s main problems are that he still needs to fill out his body and add core strength, as he is not strong enough to fight through screens. Jones’ average athleticism does not allow him to compensate for this and this leaves good open looks for the opposing team.

The clip below perfectly demonstrates this as he does well enough to stay in front of Patty Mills until the screen comes. Tyus can’t fight through the screen due to the contact, he stumbles and this allows Mills, who is hardly a world beater, to step into the open space and get a good look without a single player contesting the shot.

That said Tyus has several things going for him as he is still only 21 and has the time to get stronger and work out how to play NBA defense and compensate for his athletic limitations. Tyus also has the benefit of playing for a defensive minded coach who turned undersized backup point guards into useful players (Nate Robinson and Aaron Brooks). With increased minutes Tyus will become better and the team does not need Tyus to be the second coming of Tony Allen for the Timberwolves to be successful. What Thibodeau needs is for Tyus to be a serviceable defender who can hit three-point shots with the same accuracy as he did at Duke.

Ultimately, Tyus has “it” when it comes to running an offense, as he knows when to throw the right pass to the right player at the right time. Basketball IQ at Tyus’ level can’t be taught and it is something the Wolves could tap into more. Tyus has a history of coming up big when it matters whether it is the National Championship, where he won most outstanding player during the Final Four, partly due to his second half performances where Tyus hit numerous big shots.  Tyus is Minnesota born and raised and knows how badly the fans want the team to return to the promised land and he won’t stop until the Wolves get there.

Mustafa Noor

Mustafa Noor

Writer at Runner sports
London based writer covering the Minnesota Timberwolves for the runner sports. Mustafa is well aware that the Timberwolves have not made the playoffs for 13 straight years
Mustafa Noor