Point guard Tyus Jones has stepped in for the injured Jeff Teague and performed quite well for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Should they stick with him as the starting point guard?
Jeff Teague has missed the last two games with an Achilles injury, but the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t missed a beat without him. Sure, they dropped the first one to the Miami Heat, but surprisingly, the Wolves’ best player was Teague’s replacement… Tyus Jones.
While head coach Tom Thibodeau decided to give veteran Aaron Brooks the start, it was Jones who dominated the minutes at point guard with 33. Of course, the Wolves lost the game, but the third-year point guard was the lone bright spot finishing with eight points, six rebounds, and four steals. Not to mention, Jones and Taj Gibson were the only players to finish with a positive plus/minus. Specifically, Jones had a team-high +7 in a game they lost by 11.
Consequently, Thibodeau rewarded the 21-year-old with his first professional start on Sunday against the Pheonix Suns and he turned in an even better performance. In fact, he boasted a stat line that no one else has accomplished this season.
Furthermore, Jones put himself in the Wolves’ history books.
In addition, Jones once again led the Wolves in plus/minus at +22. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering he was a beast on the defensive end creating a career-high seven steals. As far as the offensive end, he kept the game relatively simple by getting the ball to his playmakers, yet efficiently making baskets when he needed to.
"“I’m super proud of him. He’s just such a good kid. He works hard, he stays late, he’s such a great leader. Man, I’m just so super proud of him, because I always told him, ‘When your time comes, just take advantage of it.’ I told him I believe in him.”"
The words that stand out are that Jones is “a great leader.” In reality, this is what you want from a starting point guard. Someone that can come in, lead the offense, and gain the respect of the entire team. Over Jones’ basketball career, he’s done just that, leading Apple Valley High School to a state title in 2013 and Duke University to a national championship in 2015. Knowing this, there’s no reason to believe Jones can’t be the same type of leader as the starting point guard for the Timberwolves.
Before getting too ahead of myself though, Jeff Teague is more than likely returning to the starting role, so I’m not suggesting Jones has taken over just yet. I mean, Teague was signed to be the starting point guard in the offseason and has performed just fine in that role. For the year, he’s averaging totals of 14.0 points, 7.5 assists, and 1.8 steals, which is a very respectable stat line.
That being said, should Tom Thibodeau at least consider keeping Jones as the starter? Based on the last two games, yes.
Here me out… what Jones has been able to do defensively in the last couple of games is something that has to keep the thought alive. In particular, Jones has answered the cry for more defense with 11 steals and a team-leading plus/minus of +29. These are both extremely impressive numbers over a two-game period. Probably not sustainable, but they show he has the ability to play elite defense. Most importantly, he’s willing to put in the effort to do so, something that’s been lacking from the team most of the year.
Nevertheless, what Jones is doing offensively may be what separates him most from Teague, believe it or not. Basically, he’s focused on spreading the ball around to his playmakers and less on scoring the basketball, putting up only 12 shots in the last two games. Yet, he has converted on 50 percent of those shots, so he’s been able to take advantage of limited scoring opportunities. On the other hand, Teague is averaging almost 12 shots per game, shooting at a 41.8 percent clip. Clearly, he’s taken a more aggressive scoring approach, although he hasn’t been super efficient converting on those shots.
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While I’m still fine with Teague’s approach and think his shooting percentage will rise, Jones’ approach fits better with a starting unit including Jimmy Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Andrew Wiggins. Essentially, a starting point guard with that trio should prioritize getting the ball into their hands, only putting up shots when they are open. Admittedly, Teague has hit plenty of open buckets, especially from 3, but he’s also forced many unnecessary contested shots. Quite mind-boggling given the supporting cast he has around him.
In turn, a starting unit with Jones could allow the trio of stars to take an even more active role in the offense, while Teague could provide a scoring punch off the bench when they come out of the game. Yes, the offense hasn’t been much of a problem, but there’s nothing wrong with improved offensive efficiency. To add, there’s nothing wrong with keeping the hot hand in the lineup who’s raising eyebrows with elite defensive play.
Ultimately, I don’t expect Jones to keep the job when Teague returns, but there’s a case he could be the better option for the job moving forward. At the least, he’s deserving of consideration and for sure, a bigger role given his outstanding play over the last couple of games.