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The Steady Hand of Tyus Jones

Tyus Jones has been the rock for the second unit since arriving in Memphis. What’s in store for the final year of his contract?

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2021-22 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Tyus Jones is the yang to Ja Morant’s yin. Ja Morant brings the excitement and highlight plays at the point guard position for the Grizzlies, while Tyus Jones stays quietly efficient off the bench. Effective backup point guards have been hard to come by for the Grizzlies over the past decade, with Tyus already making a case for being one of the best backup point guards the Grizzlies have had. He doesn’t make highlight plays or wow you with his ability to score in bunches off the bench, instead it’s his steady efficiency that has allowed him to be the anchor for one of the better bench units over the past two seasons in the NBA.

Jones has excelled with the Grizzlies by simply doing what is asked of him and not forcing things. This past season, he led the NBA in Assist-to-Turnover Ratio (4.1) for the 3rd season in a row. This is nothing new to Tyus, who has ranked in the top 10 in the NBA in this category for all 6 of his NBA seasons. It wasn’t all peachy for him last year, however, as he saw his spot in the rotation temporarily taken away as the Grizzlies attempted to put Justise Winslow in the backup point guard role. Ultimately, that experiment didn’t work out, and Tyus Jones found himself back in his usual spot in the rotation for the stretch run and playoffs.

The emergence of Ja Morant, however, cut Jones’ minutes down to just 17.5 minutes per game last season. Jones hadn’t averaged that few of minutes per game since his second season in Minnesota. Regardless of his minutes, Jones did step up early in the season when Ja Morant was out due to injury, as the Grizzlies went 5-4 in games that Jones started. Being able to stay afloat with Ja Morant out has been where Jones has shined. He’s anchored the second unit, and his solid passing and basketball IQ have allowed for numerous guys off the Grizzlies bench to really show out.

2021-22 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Similar to the way the future of the Grizzlies rely on the shoulders of Ja Morant, the bench unit success has been relied upon the shoulders of Tyus Jones. Whether it was when he missed games in the Orlando bubble or when Justise Winslow took his spot in the rotation, we saw a pretty dramatic drop-off for the Grizzlies bench unit. Jones is the glue that holds the bench together.

There are certainly a few things for Jones to work on as he heads into his 3rd and final year of his contract with the Grizzlies. Jones will need to improve upon his putrid 3-point shooting from last season in which he shot just 32% from beyond the arc. Jones acknowledged the poor shooting season in his Media Day Availability and discussed how that is something he’s worked on this past offseason. He will need defenses to respect his 3-point shot to help open up space for the second unit’s offense. If he can lift that number back up to his career average of 34%, things should be a little bit easier for him and his efficiency should go up. Ideally, Jones ups his percentages back up to the nearly 38% he shot from distance in his first season in Memphis.

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz - Game One Photo by Jeff Swinger/NBAE via Getty Images

Jones shot 52.2% on floaters this past season, and an improved 3-point shot will allow him to drive past crashing defenders to set up a wide-open floater that he has grown to love the last few seasons.

Jones is making $8.4 million in the final year of his contract with the Grizzlies and will enter free agency after the season. Jones’ efficiency alongside his relatively cheap contract would make him a popular commodity, should the Grizzlies put him on the trade market this season. However, the Grizzlies should be careful in any potential Jones trade as to not disrupt the flow of the second unit.

Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke both rely heavily on their offense being created for them, as they typically score off passes from others. De’Anthony Melton has improved as a someone who can create their own shot, but still he has been successful most of his career of catch and shoot opportunities. Tyus Jones plays a huge role in others success. This isn’t to say that the Grizzlies shouldn’t consider moving Tyus for the right price, just that the right price should include somebody capable of coming in and being able to run the second unit.

Overall, it’s setting up to be a big season for Tyus. It is unknown if the Grizzlies intend to bring him back after his contract expires, but he would be lined up for a solid payday regardless of what team comes calling if he can continue to be an extremely efficient point guard off the bench.

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