This might be the year that talent and opportunity line up for Tyus Jones.
Jones had the best season of his career last season, scoring 5.1 points per game and adding 2.8 assists, 1.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals. Jones played in every Wolves game last year, averaging 17.9 minutes per game.
While his numbers from last season don’t jump off the page, there’s a lot to like about Jones’ game in the context of this year’s Timberwolves team that lead us to believe he may be the Wolves’ breakout player of the year.
Coach Tom Thibodeau has spoken at length about playing more three-guard lineups. Those lineups will certainly include Jones. Jones is versatile enough to play alongside any of the Wolves’ guards and can play either the one or the two. With Jimmy Butler and Derrick Rose both having the strength to play the small forward in smaller lineups, Jones could see a lot of time at shooting guard with Jeff Teague running the point. With Teague on the bench, Jones can also serve as the primary ball handler for the team.
With the departure of Jamal Crawford, who played 20.7 minutes per game last season, Jones could easily see 20+ minutes per game, provided he performs. Jones proved last year that he can be very durable and play many roles for the Wolves. That’s very important and not often discussed. Though he’ll have a role regardless, Jones will almost certainly be the first man up should the Wolves deal with any injuries.
Jones was very good last season in situations where he was allowed to play a larger role. In 14 games where he played 20-29 minutes, he averaged 7.7 points and 4.4 assists and was a +20 overall. In 11 starts Jones averaged 9.4 points and 4.9 assists per game and was +18.4. The talent is clearly there for Jones, it’s just a matter of figuring out his fit.
The area where Jones needs the most improvement is his defense. Though his steal numbers improved last year and he is a physical defender, the young guard still needs to work on his decision making and positioning on defense. Thibodeau has said as much during training camp: Jones’ time on the court is dependent on his growth on defense.
As hard of a worker as Jones is, there’s little doubt that he will take another step forward this year. That improvement plus a larger opportunity should lead to a breakout year for the Minnesota native.