The Timberwolves have an interesting point guard situation, with four guys on the current roster having delivered solid stints this year but none of them guaranteed to be here next season. Let’s zero in on the one with the most local interest — Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones — and ask this question: Where, if at all, should he fit into the Wolves’ plans?
First take: Michael Rand
This is a tough one. Jones will be a restricted free agent this summer, meaning the Wolves can match an offer from another team and keep him. But that could be challenging if another team wants to pay him as a starter and Jeff Teague opts into his $19 million final year of his deal.
I guess it depends on what you think of Jones. His advanced stats generally suggest he is a starting-caliber player and his skill set as a floor general seems better tailored for a starting role than as a reserve.
He’s never been handed that starting spot except when others have been injured. I could think of worse things than paying him a modest amount to find out if he can really handle it full time.
Wolves writer Chris Hine: But the Wolves may not be able to pay him more than a modest amount if someone comes along to jack up the price.
So much is in flux. Teague’s potential opt-in complicates matters, as does the situation of Karl-Anthony Towns, who will see the value of his extension rise by an average of more than $6 million per year if he makes an All-NBA team this year.
Who will be making personnel decisions, Scott Layden or a new general manager? Despite Jones’ willingness to stay in Minnesota there were no serious discussions between the Wolves and Jones on an extension when Tom Thibodeau was in charge of basketball operations.
If Ryan Saunders is still the coach, I get the feeling Saunders would go to bat to keep Jones given the pair’s strong relationship on and off the court. I’d also like to see what Jones can do given the chance to start, especially how he may operate playing a lot of minutes alongside Towns.
Rand: Jones ranks No. 25 among NBA point guards in real plus-minus, a stat that tries to break down an individual’s overall contributions to a team. That figure isn’t great, but he is the best among Wolves point guards; Teague is No. 35 and Derrick Rose is No. 43. Last year, Jones ranked No. 7 in that category among league point guards — suggesting an overall caliber of play in the upper echelon.
And the Wolves’ three best lineup combinations this season in terms of scoring differential per 100 possessions, albeit in small sample sizes because of injuries, all involve Jones. Among the eight Wolves players with at least 1,000 minutes this season, Jones is No. 2 behind Towns in terms of how well the Wolves do when he’s on the court vs. when he isn’t.
Do small samples help those numbers, or has a lack of opportunities been holding him down?
Hine: Thanks for pulling out the fancy stats so I didn’t have to. Another small sample size: In nine games under Saunders, Jones is shooting 42 percent, slightly up from his season average, and 31 percent from three-point range, also up. His 5.8 assists per game are also ahead of his season average of 4.2. So there has been some improvement for Jones under Saunders so far.
I think Jones can be a value starter for someone in the league. It’s just at what value.
Rand: After playing his early NBA years here, I’m not sure Jones will be eager to give the Wolves a “one of us” discount.
Final word: Hine
Well, maybe then the Wolves will take his brother Tre Jones in the draft.
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