The Grizzlies officially added a young, yet experienced point guard in Tyus Jones. He can not only serve as a backup for rookie Ja Morant, but could also show the hand of what the organization will value this season.
After conducting a sign-and-trade involving restricted free agent combo guard Delon Wright to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday afternoon, the Grizzlies offered Jones, a former Minnesota Timberwolves guard, an offer sheet later that night. The Timberwolves declined to match the three-year, $28-million dollar deal by the 48-hour deadline that ended Tuesday night, clearing the way for Jones to officially become a member of the Grizzlies.
Memphis used the Mid-Level Exception to sign Jones, which likely means that the Grizzlies are done as far as free agency is concerned, since they are over the salary cap without a ton of space under the luxury tax threshold. The Grizzlies have been limited in the amount that they are allowed to spend on incoming free agents for the past few years.
Jones, 23, is a fifth-year true point guard out of Duke University. He was named the 2015 NCAA Basketball Tournament's Most Outstanding Player as a freshman, after leading Duke to the championship, along with soon-to-be-Grizzlies-teammate Grayson Allen. Jones was picked at number 24 overall by Minnesota in the 2015 draft, just one spot ahead of Memphis, who drafted Jarell Martin. Jones was on the Grizzlies' radar at the time, and now they have him in tow.
As a career 33-percent shooter from three-point range, Jones hasn’t shown a great ability to score from long distance. Last season was his worst percentage, at 31 percent, but he attempted fewer than two three-pointers per game, and only averages one-and-a-half three-pointers per game over his career. He is a clear pass-first, score-second point guard who averaged close to five assists last season while playing around 23 minutes a game.
The good news is that Jones set an NBA record last year with a 6.98-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, which is unheard of for someone who is a primary ball handler. Jones has shown that he values possessions and protects the ball at an elite level. He is also a pesky defender with a knack for making plays on the ball.
Since Jones is the first current NBA player the Zach Kleiman-led front office has signed, he possibly shows the direction the team is heading and the type of player the organization is looking to build around — high IQ playmakers who make the right decisions. While not a shooter, Jones is the type of player who can definitely set up his teammates. He has a contrasting style of play from the now-departed Delon Wright, but Jones is four years younger and has a desire to be a part of the Grizzlies rebuild. His elite-level playmaking — and the two future second-round picks that came along with the Dallas sign-and-trade — makes choosing Jones over Wright a push, at worst, in my opinion.
I look forward to seeing Jones accept his role as a backup to Morant, and I’m excited to see that he seems to embrace it. It’s been tossed around that Jones and Morant could play some together, but at only 6’2”, alongside Morant, who is only 6’3”, that could be a challenge. Jones will likely get more minutes in Memphis this season than he ever got with Minnesota. Hopefully his shooting percentages increase with more usage, in addition to his already proven playmaking and ball-protection skills.