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Should the Wolves pursue Tyus Jones?

Minnesota's need for a point guard and rumors of them acquiring a second first-round pick has speculation flying around the hometown kid

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

There's been recent chatter (that was then (more or less) confirmed by Chad Ford) that the Wolves may be looking to grab a mid-to-late first rounder in the draft in addition to their own. This speculation has been further fueled by the Wolves using all 18 of their allotted interviews - pure overkill, otherwise, for a team guaranteed a top 4 pick - on several non-lottery prospects, including Kevon Looney, Sam Dekker, and our own Tyus Jones.

It's no secret the Wolves are in dire need of a backup point guard (well....ok, it might be a secret to Flip.....) so if Jones is on the radar, that's certainly not a bad thing. Tyus does some good basketball stuff.

To put Jones' numbers in context, you first have to note his crazy low usage percentage - just 18.7%. That's nuts. For a top 5 recruit, who's a point guard, on one of college basketball's most historically prestigious programs, that's nuts. Even for a guy sharing the floor with an absurdly dominant scoring big man. John Wall shared the floor with DeMarcus Cousins and had a usage over 25%. Marquis Teague shared the floor with Anthony Davis and still had a usage of 20%. Even Frank Mason, the backup point guard for Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins at Kansas, had a higher usage rate - 19.4%

So with that in mind, what Jones was able to accomplish in Duke's offense this past year is actually quite remarkable. Despite having a usage rate down in the storm cellar, he still somehow ranked 22nd in assists/game, and 15th in total assists, and finished with an assist percentage over 27%. He also kept the turnovers to a minimum - just 2.1 per game, to 5.8 assists per game, a nearly 3-to-1 assist/turnover ratio. He has the third lowest turnover percentage in DraftExpress' Top 100 database for this year.

Put simply, Tyus passed the ball often and effectively. In transition, he head-mans the ball whenever possible, and has great awareness for teammates filling the lanes or running to the corners as well. And in the halfcourt, he killed the pick-and-roll pass.

In fact, Jones just killed the pick-and-roll, period. In plays where he gave up the ball off the, he led to a strong 1.175 PPP mark. And in plays where he took the shot himself, is PPP mark was 1.155, which was 3rd best in all of NCAA. This is even more amazing considering that almost none of these plays were with Jahlil Okafor; per Synergy, Okafor only attempted 12 shots in the pick-and-roll all season - less than a single attempt every three games.

The third strong aspect for Jones is his shot selection. He had standout marks in both Free Throw Rate (.500) and 3pt Attempt Rate.

Jones attempted a free throw for every two shots he took. That's awesome. Getting to the free throw line is possibly the most universal marker of success in a prospect, across all positions. For reference, Kevin Love's highest free throw rate in any single NBA season is .488 (different level, I know, but just so you get a feel for the sheer frequency he drew fouls at)

He also took...and made...three point shots. Tyus attempted eight field goals a game. Three of those field goals were from The Great Beyond, which he hit a solid 38% of.

Game FGA 3ptA FTA
Michigan St (Nov 18) 4-5 2-3 7-7
Wisconsin (Dec 3) 7-11 2-3 6-8
UCONN (Dec 18) 5-11 2-6 9-10
Toledo (Dec 29) 2-3 2-3 9-9
St Johns (Jan 25) 5-11 2-5 10-10
UNC (Mar 7) 5-10 2-4 12-12
Wisconsin (Championship) 7-13 2-3 7-7

He's getting to the basket. He's taking 3s he can make. He's drawing fouls like a madman. Yeah. That's really great shot selection. That bodes really well for his future.

All this adds up to something Jones is universally praised for - high basketball IQ. He understands the game, and knows how to play it efficiently and effectively. Tyus essentially does what you want a modern NBA point guard to do: move the ball, attack the basket, and bomb away from three.

But there's a couple reasons he's still projected out of the lottery.

First, he's not physically or athletically overwhelming. He measured better than expected at the combine, but 6'2" with a 6'5" reach is still pretty average, and he never showed great speed or explosiveness with the ball at Duke. This means he may not be able to get by the defense in the NBA like he could in college, which would eliminate a lot of his foul draws, and could pose a problem finishing layups through contact. It also means he might have trouble defending the ball as well, as there's certainly no shortage of blindingly quick point guards out there.

Second, his physical and athletic limitations also potentially cap his...well, potential. How much upside does he have? Granted, that's not the biggest concern when you're picking in the 18-25 range, but like I said, there's a reason he's not likely going to be a lottery pick.

And of course, there's the concern about Flip. Which isn't really Tyus' problem, but also will be a huge problem for Tyus if the Wolves draft him. Again, two of Jones' biggest strengths are in the pick-and-roll and beyond the arc - two areas of basketball that Saunders inexplicably, systematically avoids. Oi. The Wolves are a case study in point guards playing incompatible systems - Flynn/Rambis, Sessions/Rambis, Rubio/Adelman, Rubio/Saunders. It doesn't work.

Still, coaching aside, I'm a big believer in talent finding a way. Guys who know how to play the game create opportunities psychologically that overcome their limitations physically. Jones is a smart player, and I think it's more likely than not that his understanding of basketball will get him over.

I don't have a good argument as to whether I'd prefer Jones or Cameron Payne (I think Jerian Grant is out of our reach) But obviously a backup point guard who can, y'know, play point guard would certainly be a nice thing to have. If the Wolves want to do that here, then I'm ok with that. Teams often find great value in non-lottery point guards - Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, Cory Joseph, Greivis Vasquez, Dennis Schreoder - all guys picked between 16-30 in the last 5 years alone.

Final thought: Jones sacrificed a great deal for Duke, and specifically for Okafor. He gave up more than maybe any other player in the country. Again, look at his usage. Tyus was ranked the 4th best recruit in the nation by ESPN (6th best by Future150) coming out of Apple Valley. Just about anyone else in his position would have tried to get his, but Tyus willingly shelved his ego for the team, and did it without complaint. That matters. Emotional maturity matters.

And in the end, Jones got a national championship for it...and still got to show he could be the hero when it mattered in the championship game. That's pretty cool.