1/9/2018 0 Comments
By: Dan Slaubaugh
In case you are living under a rock and missed the final score, the Timberwolves obliterated the Cavaliers in historic fashion last night. In fact, they stuck it to LeBron so bad that this kid decided to change teams.
Tyus Jones, who LeBron disrespectfully called “Tyler Jones” at shootaround, went up for a layup early in the 2nd quarter only to have LeBron send his shot flying into Lake Minnetonka.
A few plays later, Jones swiped the basketball from Dwyane Wade and lead the fastbreak a few feet in front of LeBron who was certainly gearing up for his patented chase-down block. Tyus did the impeccable, fearlessly leaping for the rim and hammering it down with a block-hungry king on his back.
Tyus Jones. Dauntless.
It’s hard to fathom how far Jones, who finished his rookie season with a net rating of -9.8, has come since Flip Saunders drafted him in 2015. The Wolves starting unit, with Jones at point guard instead of Jeff Teague, has performed incredibly in a respectable sample size. In 249 minutes, the lineup ranks 3rd in offensive rating at 119.3 and 2nd in defensive rating at 91.3. In other words, the Wolves have played like a championship contender with Jones running the show.
Jones doesn’t score at high rate, but he contributes everywhere else. With three dynamic scorers and another non-slouch in Taj Gibson, Tyus has found a way to set teammates up while also staying out of the way to let the true scorers do their thing. Jones’ ability to take care of the ball, ranks 6th in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.9/1, has the Wolves offensive humming. It’s clearly evident he learned a lot from Ricky Rubio in two seasons backing him up.
Defensively, Jones exerts more energy defensively than Teague and takes smart, calculated gambles. The stats back up the claim too. Among players who’ve played 500 minutes or more, Jones ranks 5th in the NBA in steals per 36 minutes (2.2). He’s entered Rubio territory where people may view his defense as a weakness when in actuality it’s a strength.
Jones and Butler give the Wolves a +15.7 net rating; Jones and Gibson on the floor give the Wolves a net rating of +24.6 (!!!). In fact, there's no starter-Tyus combination that doesn’t have a positive net rating.
So, what happens when Jeff Teague returns?
Using the information above, it’s fair to suggest Jones should start. However, with the politics engraved in Teague’s 19mil/year contract and Thibodeau hell-bent on sticking to the early-season rotation, that probably won’t happen.
In games Jeff Teague has played in this season, Jones has averaged around 13 minutes per game. When Teague returns, that number needs to increase dramatically, somewhere between 20 and 23 minutes per game.
Make no mistake; Teague has performed well as the starting point guard this season. But while Tyus fits well with the second unit and has been a great spark off the bench, seeing him play more with the starters has proven to be massively beneficial for the 26-16 Timberwolves. While the second unit needs Tyus to facilitate, getting Tyus more minutes with the starters could not only help the Wolves as a whole, but it can also give a recovering Jeff Teague the rest he needs.
How Thibodeau should exactly divvy up the minutes
In three years, Jones went from benchwarmer, to backup, to placeholder starter, to rock solid rotation player Tom Thibodeau can trust on the floor at all times. The rise of Tyus Jones has been truly remarkable and a joy to watch.
Should the terrific play by Jones continue, the coaching staff would be foolish to not make the appropriate changes when Teague returns, right?
Specifically, I’d like to see Teague subbed out with Jones at the 6-minute mark of the 1st quarter then re-enter at the 8-minute mark in the 2nd quarter with the same rotation in the 2nd half. This would put Teague at 28 minutes per game and Jones at 20 minutes per game while giving Tyus solid run with the starting unit.
The Wolves have held six straight teams under 100 points, the offense has been humming, the defense just keeps getting better and chemistry looks great.
Make the smart, easy decision, Thibs. It's only logical.