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Why Tyus Jones?

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The Grizzlies made the right choice

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Lots of folks on social media and in various comment sections have been questioning why the Grizzlies would prefer Tyus Jones over Delon Wright.

On the surface, Jones is a few years younger than Wright and the Grizzlies were able to acquire two second round picks from the Mavericks for Wright. But it goes a little deeper than that.

Yes, Wright is a better shooter. Over their three seasons, Wright shoots higher percentages on 2-point shots (.495 to .464) and in overall enhanced FG% (.496 to .477). 3-point shooting is mostly a draw with Jones holding a slight .001 advantage (.333 to .332). Wright also holds a distinct advantage in points per game at 7.4 to 5.1 overall and 13.8 to 10.3 per 36 minutes.

The big difference offensively is what Jones does with the ball overall. One common thing among the fans of Jones was his perceived ability to make players around him better.

Jones backs that up statistically with his assist and turnover numbers. Which yes, that’s the argument that’s been used by a bunch of folks the last few days (and in the tweet above). But it’s the truth. Head-to-head over their careers, Jones averages .60 more assists per game (3.3 to 2.7) but it’s a more staggering 6.8 to 5.1 over 36 minutes. If you look at turnovers Jones is averaging .30 less than Wright overall (.70 to 1.0) and .40 less over 36 minutes (1.5 to 1.9). When you look at just this past season, the gap increases even more.

In 2018-2019, Jones averaged 4.8 assists to Wright’s 3.3 per game. Over 36 minutes it jumps 7.5 to 5.3 in favor of Jones. The turnovers are closer at 1.1 to 1.3 overall and 1.1 to 1.6 per 36 minutes, but the big leap in assists this past season led to that big assist to turnover ratio. Even more impressive is where these numbers put the two guards in comparison to the rest of the NBA.

In assist numbers per 36 minutes, Jones’ 7.5 was 15th best in the league, putting him ahead of players like James Harden and Mike Conley. Wright’s 5.3 was 47th best. Per 100 possessions it’s a lot of the same. Jones averaged 10 assists for 16th best in the league, while the 7.1 for Wright was 46th best.

Jones also earned a 28.5 assist percentage last season, while Wright landed at 21.6%. Jones’ 28.5% average was higher than a lot of other offensive creators around the league. It was better than Demar DeRozan, Stephen Curry. Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, Evan Turner, and Blake Griffin. Jones ended up 22nd in the whole NBA, whereas Wright fell in at 47th.

Turnovers is where the gap really opens up between Jones and Wright. Only two point guards in the entire league had a lower turnover percentage than Jones (9.0%): Terry Rozier (8.8%) and Monte Morris (6.6%). Jones overall ranked 35th. Wright came in at 11.0% which didn’t even put him in the top 75 in the league.

So, while Wright is probably the more dynamic scorer (and dynamic is a term I use loosely here), Jones is the overall better ball handler and facilitator. The fans and analysts aren’t wrong when they say that Jones just makes his teams better when he’s on the floor, especially last season.

Yes, 3 years for $28M is a lot for a backup or third point guard, but if he keeps progressing the way he is with his skills as an on-court manager, that money could be a steal long term or could be a nice trade piece moving forward. Which based on the current trend, that’s exactly what the Grizzlies are trying to do right now.