The search for a formidable back up point guard has been a long and draining process for the Memphis Grizzlies franchise. There was a solid stretch from Beno Udrih, a great year from Mario Chalmers and very good run from Delon Wright in the last half of a lost season.
Look no more Grizzlies fans, the best back up point guard in franchise history may finally be here, and his name is Tyus Jones.
No, he has not played a single minute of basketball in Beale Street Blue, but that is exactly the point. Memphis has had that much problem finding a point guard they could trust to back up Mike Conley. Now with Mike Conley in Utah, the roster needed a point guard off the bench to steady the offense when rookie Ja Morant takes a breather or to even mentor or play alongside Ja.
2018-19 Season Overview
Blocked by both Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose to begin the season, Tyus Jones was buried on the depth chart but as injuries began to hit, Jones found his way on the floor. Playing in 68 games, Tyus Jones started 23 of them, which was more than his previous three NBA seasons combined (11). With more opportunity on the floor, Jones took full advantage setting new career highs in points, rebounds and assists at 6.9, 2.0 and 4.8.
I know what you are thinking - what about those low numbers is there to like? Jones’ role isn't to fill up the bucket. His job is to come in, take care of the ball and execute the offense, which he did at an NBA record level. His assist-to-turnover ratio was 6.9-1 which set a new record in the league.
As already mentioned here, Taylor Jenkins has confirmed that Ja Morant will be a starter heading into the season. Is it possible that Jenkins runs a lineup out with Tyus and Ja together as the starters if the wing competition in pre season is lackluster? Sure, its possible - consider one of Minnesota’s best lineups last season feature Jones and Derrick Rose together.
Is it probable? No. Tyus will be one of the first guards off the bench, a possible sixth man candidate for the team. He will be asked to show the young guards how to play consistently and professionally. He will be called upon to steady the ship when the youth of Ja Morant rears its ugly head at times. He will be one of the “veterans” needed to bring this team along.
2019-2020 Best Case Scenario
Best case for Tyus Jones on this current Grizzlies roster is to prove in training camp and preseason that he is candidate to play alongside and just behind Ja. With a rookie point guard with a tendency to look for the flashy play, the team will need a steady hand with the ball at times. Tyus starting at the point guard and Ja Morant on the wing would allow for Ja to get acclimated to the NBA game with less pressure than being the primary ball handler and facilitator. Two point guard lineups have worked at times in the league and Jones is smart enough and selfless enough for it to work.
2019-2020 Worst Case Scenario
This team is looking to speed things up and use the athletic abilities of guys like Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Brandon Clarke and Jaren Jackson Jr. Tyus is more high IQ than high hops. His size leaves something to be desired as well being listed at 6’2 — we all know NBA players fudge their height. The worst thing for Jones is for De’Anthony Melton to elevate his game and force his way onto the court. Melton’s size, defensive ability and overall potential could cause Jones to see less action on the floor.
The expectation for Tyus Jones should be for him to be who he is. In a season that is all about growing our young players, there is no pressure to make the playoffs. There is room to grow and make mistakes. Jones is entering his fifth year in the NBA at the ripe age of 23, which means he has yet to hit his prime. There is some growing for him to do as well.
It is not unreasonable to expect Tyus to set a new career high in points and maintain his superb assist-to-turnover ratio. Grizzlies fans should expect Jones to give it his all every night in whatever role he is. It is fair to expect him to be the best back up point guard in franchise history because this front office chose him over resigning Delon Wright, who had been playing like the best back up in franchise history.
Tyus Jones will become a fan favorite with his play on the court and be a solid contributor for this young and growing team.