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Floating and playmaking with Tyus Jones

Tyus Jones is utilizing his two biggest strengths to generate a career year and a dynamic offensive attack

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Los Angeles Lakers v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Tyus Jones is enjoying a career year — in a contract year...perfect timing. He’s boasting career-high’s in points per game (8.2), field goal percentage (47%), field goal attempts per game (6.9), rebounds per game (2.7), and 3-point attempts per game (2.5).

The confidence he’s been playing with has been a key facet in his surge this season. He’s shooting the thread out of the ball. Though he’s cooled off from his 44.8% 3-point percentage from November, he’s still shooting 37.5% from 3 and 40.0% on catch-and-shoot trey’s on 1.9 attempts per game.

Where his confidence is most evident is his downhill attack. He’s seeking out more mismatches off switches, and he’s really getting to his spots to leverage his playmaking and his floater. That aggressive mindset has fueled this offense — whether that’s been stepping in as the starter in Ja Morant’s absence, or guiding this bench unit to top-10 levels of offensive production.

“As of late, he’s been real aggressive for us,” Ja Morant said of Jones. “I feel like him getting downhill in the paint is helping us, just like when I do it.”

And that’s been paramount for the Grizzlies in the middle of this 9-game winning streak — or for that matter, over the past month and a half. They have 48 minutes of constant aggression and attack from the point guard position. Though it’s not as thunderous or dazzling as Morant, Jones has thrived using his floater and playmaking as a yin to Morant’s yang downhill attack.

Like wrestling legend Ric Flair with his signature chop, it’s a move that’s deployed often from others. But it is so much smoother — and filled with swagger — when executed by the right person.

Case in point with Tyus Jones and his floater.

“I feel like he’s one of the top players in the league shooting that floater,” Morant said.

Statistically, Morant’s right. According to B-Ball Index’s model, Tyus Jones shoots 44.6% on floaters and ranks 2nd in the league in floater talent with a score of 1.11 — which takes the team’s offensive scheme, player’s role, player’s team fit, and the player’s teammates into account. He also shoots 50% on mid-range jumpers and 48% on short mid-range jumpers (often categorized as the “floater zone”), which fall in the 90th and 79th percentile among combo guards — per Cleaning the Glass.

Jones has such a feathery touch on floaters, and he also has a great understanding of angles off the glass to convert on tough shots over bigger opponents.

Jones is also using the threat of his playmaking, primarily hitting rollers off screen-and-rolls, to get clean looks on these shots.

When the opposing big man is caught in a pick-and-roll, the defender has to make a split-second decision. Do they want to play the roll man, or go for the floater? In these instances here, the defenders choose to seal off the roll man to prevent an easy dump-off pass. However, the joke is on them, as Tyus Jones now has an easier pathway towards his patented floater.

Jones is also using this to attack drop coverages as well. As teams deploy their big man in this position — trying to take away stuff from inside 3 feet — he usually gets into a good spot to launch his floater, once he’s navigated his way through his defender.

“That floater of his is incredible, huh?” Grizzlies assistant coach Brad Jones said. “It’s amazing the shots he makes with that floater.”

It truly is an incredible shot, and the impact he's making through the threat of it is equally as impressive. As the scouting report likely keys on the Tyus Jones floater, it allows him to maximize his playmaking prowess as well. When teams are collapsing and keying in on him in that “short mid” range, it opens up looks for Jones to find his teammates down towards the basket or from the 3-point line.

His pick-and-roll chemistry with Brandon Clarke is a prime example. These two have built a fantastic connection in these actions, as Tyus Jones has dished more assists to Brandon Clarke than he has for any other teammates the past 3 seasons, per PBP Stats. The “pick your poison” vibes between the feathery floater or the explosive roller has fueled a reliable source of offense off the bench.

“It’s our 3rd year doing this now, so I feel like we just have a really good connection on the court,” Clarke said. “We’re just always talking on the court. I know it’s always hard to see, but we’re always talking. I’m always ready for that lob. I just know how to set the picks for him, and I know how to play with him really well. I feel like we’re getting better at it every year, and we just have a very good connection right now.”

Twice in this Nets game, Tyus Jones and Brandon Clarke take advantage of the Nets switching defensive coverage. Clarke uses the ghost screen and slips towards the basket. James Johnson plays up to Jones in that floater zone off the switch in both spots, and Jones’ original man is left behind, creating a lob opportunity for Clarke.

“It’s just been fun playing with a point guard that can do that,” Clarke said.

Jones also uses the threat of both the roll or the floater to generate clean looks from the outside.

Tyus Jones gets a step on his defender off the hand-off. As he’s getting downhill, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl sticks with Adams, and you could also see him load up to prepare for a contest on the floater. Then Darius Bazley is helping a bit too much, leading to a kick-out to Jaren Jackson Jr. for a clean corner 3.

Off the Spain pick-and-roll, Andre Drummond is playing the Adams roll, while Tobias Harris picks up Jones around the elbow. This leaves Tyrese Maxey scrambling for a flaring Jaren Jackson Jr., leading to a thunderous poster jam on Drummond.

Tyus Jones has statistically been one of the best decision-makers in the game, as he’s a mainstay at the top of “assist-to-turnover ratio” leaderboards. Now, he’s using his playmaking and his floater to make the absolute best play possible, a leverage that’s helping this offense maintain good pace and downhill attack for all 48 minutes.

“Once he gets going from there, bigs step up, and he can make the next play — the best play,” Morant said of Jones. “He’s one of the guys in this league that always making the right play. He doesn’t turn the ball over much.”

Memphis Grizzlies v LA Clippers Photo by Chris Elise/NBAE via Getty Images

Tyus Jones has been a key cog to the Grizzlies system this season. As the team has gone through some adversity — Ja Morant’s injury, a revolving door of players in and out of health and safety protocols, and the rocky start — Tyus Jones’ stability has been a component of the Grizzlies surge.

As Morant and Brad Jones have both said, his impact has been “big time” in the first half of the season. His aggressiveness, in the way he dictates the pace and gets to his spots inside the arc, are going to be important for this young Grizzlies team as they look to maintain positioning in the Western Conference.

As long as Tyus Jones is slicing defenses with his passing and his floaters, the Grizzlies offense can continue floating on through in their ascension towards the NBA’s upper echelon.

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