Probable top-five picks D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay definitely will be drafted ahead of him. So, too, might Murray State’s Cameron Payne and Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant.
But Tyus Jones — Apple Valley’s own, by way of one NCAA championship season at Duke — considers himself unique among his peers in this year’s NBA draft class.
He’s the kind of point guard made the way they used to make them.
“I just think I’m a pure, complete point guard,” he said. “I’m someone who can run a team and be a leader, someone who is very unselfish and sets up my teammates, someone who tries to make everyone better. I’m not necessarily an attacking point guard, a driving and penetrating point guard, but I do feel I am the best pure point guard, as far as complete game.”
Other point guards are faster, quicker and can jump higher. All Jones does is organize and unify teammates. All he does is win games, including a state title when he played for Apple Valley and an NCAA title with pal Jahlil Okafor in April when his late-game play helped the Blue Devils beat Wisconsin.
Jones is not the most dynamic point guard in his draft class, but he just might be the most fearless.
“I think that just comes from my competitive nature,” said Jones, who played his way to YouTube acclaim by the time he was in eighth grade. “I hate to lose. Every level I’ve been on, I try to accomplish the same goal — and that’s to win a championship. It just comes from hating to lose and I feel as a point guard and as a leader, you set the table for the team. That’s what comes out of me.”
His nature will get him drafted in Thursday night’s first round, perhaps as soon as the 18th pick by the Houston Rockets, who are searching for a point guard that can unify and push a talented team further toward the NBA Finals.
“When you look at the history of point guards, the great ones are judged by one thing, and that’s winning,” Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel said. “I don’t care who it is, and that’s the thing that kid does. He figures out how to beat you. You can look at his deficiencies and what he doesn’t do. But I’ve seen him play bigger guys, more athletic guys and he just figures out how to beat them. Guys want to play with him. Whoever drafts him, they’re getting a guy who will affect their culture. The guy wants to play. He’s really confident and he believes in himself.”
The Timberwolves own the draft’s 31st and 36th picks early in the second round, which they will package to try to obtain another first-round pick. They will struggle, though, to get another pick high enough to bring Jones home to Minnesota.
“That would just add onto everything else feeling like a dream, really,” Jones said. “As a kid you dream of playing in the NBA and then ultimately with your hometown team. It would be a blessing and something I’d be very excited about, something my family would be very excited about as well.”