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Tyus Jones, the unsung hero of the Grizzlies

Tyus Jones solidified his case for the best backup point guard in the league, but even that title can’t describe his importance to the Grizzles.

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NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies Joe Rondone-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies tied their franchise record in wins and earned the West's 2nd seed for the first time in franchise history. None of that would have been possible without the great play of Tyus Jones.

Jones has always been seen as a good backup point guard that will steady the offense and protect the ball in his career. He continued that this season with a 7/1 assist to turnover ratio, the best in NBA history. However, he also showed that he has the potential to be more than a solid backup. After some struggles in the season prior, Jones solidified himself as one of the best backup point guards in the league.

Jones shined in his starts after Ja Morant went down with a knee sprain in late November. The Grizzlies were just 9-10 when Jones took over, but he led the Grizzlies to a 10-2 record before Morant's return in late December. Offensively, Jones was more aggressive than ever before. He attacked in the pick-and-roll and got to his floater with ease; for a good stretch of the season, it felt like he didn’t miss one. He also started in the Grizzlies’ 73-point win against the Thunder on December 2nd, the largest win in NBA history.

After Morant's return, Jones moved back to the bench but continued to impact every game. When Morant missed time again later in the season, Jones picked up right where he left off. In his career-high 27-point game against the Pelicans, he looked to score more than I had ever seen in the past.

For the season, Jones led the Grizzlies to a 20-6 record as a starter including two games in the playoffs against Golden State. In those games, he averaged 13 points, 6.7 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game, all would be career high’s. He ran the offense to perfection and involved Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane offensively from the opening tip.

The biggest improvement for Tyus Jones this year was his three-point shooting. Last season, Jones could not be trusted to make threes even when he was open, shooting just 32% from behind the arc. This year he completely turned his shooting around. In addition to increasing his volume to nearly three attempts per game, Jones hit 39% of his shots from behind the arc, the highest of his career. Jones also hit the most important three of the season during Game 6 against the Timberwolves, his hometown team that let him walk during free agency 4 years ago. In the 4th quarter with the shot clock running down, Morant found Jones, and he delivered with the dagger propelling the Grizzlies to their first series win since 2015. That shot felt like the culmination of his hard work over the years and is something that he will probably never forget.

Tyus Jones also made strides defensively, along with many of the other Grizzlies. Even though he is not known as a lockdown defender, he provides resistance on the ball and always seems to end up in the right spot for steals and loose balls. His steady defense turned the Grizzlies' season around and completely changed their defensive mindset for the rest of the year.

Jones had a lot of great performances this season, but the best of all might have come in Game 5 against the Warriors. With Morant out again, Tyus was called on and delivered with 21 points and 9 assists on 8-12 shooting. The Grizzlies won that game by 39 points and led by as many as 55 in that game, both franchise records for a playoff game. He was not able to get the Grizzlies over the Warriors in the end, but this performance proved he can provide in the playoffs.

Memphis Grizzlies v Golden State Warriors - Game Four Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After a season where Jones lost some of his backup point guard minutes to the Justise Winslow experiment, it was important for him to have a better season. He responded by averaging career-high’s in points, rebounds, and assists on higher efficiency than the season before. He can still improve on both ends of the court, especially if he continues to develop his shooting off the dribble, but overall the Grizzlies could not have asked for a better season than the one they got from Tyus Jones.

In his exit interview, Jones said that he aspires to be a starting point guard, and his numbers prove he very well could be. He will be a free agent this offseason and could possibly get that chance somewhere else, but he also said being a starter isn't the end all be all and views himself as a starter even though he comes off the bench. It's impossible to know what will happen next as the season just ended, but there will definitely be interest from both sides for a Tyus Jones return.

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