Obviously I am pre-disposed to like Tyus Jones. I am a Minnesota resident, went to Duke Law School, and am a long-term season ticket holder of the Timberwolves. But that, of course, does not mean that I have to like the guy. I have been very negative on many Wolves players and Duke players through the years, and certainly there are many, many Minnesota players who aren't the answer as basketball greats, so why do I like Tyus Jones?
1) Tyus Jones is a winner -- high school state champion, national champion and MOP in the Final 4 in his one year as a Duke player. When games get important, Tyus Jones plays better.
2) Tyus Jones makes his teammates better -- you will note that in the Summer League the Wolves were struggling mightily when Kris Dunn was playing, despite Dunn's constant forays to the hoop (some of which were rather impressive) and his ability to get steals, rebound, block shots, etc. Then when Dunn got a concussion the Wolves were basically forced to give Tyus the ball and let him run the offense. When Tyus is in charge of the offense, guys get open shots. It is as simple as that. He wants to run the offense, and if your offense gets guys open, he will hit them. Why do you think Jahlil Okafor so badly wanted to play with Tyus at Duke? If you are open on the post, Tyus will look for you and get you the ball. Reid Travis went from a top 120 player to a top 40 player in one AAU season with Tyus. Brock Bertram played at Apple Valley with Tyus - his stock was never higher. Then he had to play AAU without Tyus; stock not so great.
3) Any Coach Who Has Relied Upon Tyus Has Done Well -- Apple Valley, champions, Duke, champions, USA Basketball, champions. Sam Mitchell plays him almost not at all -- 29 wins.
My Response to Detractors
The general statements of detractors regarding Tyus Jones are that 1) he is too small; 2) he is not very athletic; 3) he is a mediocre shooter; and 4) he is a terrible defender.
Tyus is roughly the same size as Chris Paul and slightly bigger than Mike Conley. Tyus, at 6'2" and 195 pounds, certainly isn't appreciable smaller than Steph Curry or Damian Lillard or Kyrie Irving.
Not Very Athletic
Tyus can dunk. Ricky Rubio has a very hard time dunking. My son was a very good athlete and always one of the top 2-3 fastest guys on any team he played on. He played against Tyus in baseball -- Tyus is way, way faster. Tyus was a great youth league pitcher. To say he is a poor athlete is ridiculous. Tyus played at Duke against Louisville's guards and Carolina's guards and Virginia's guards and Michigan State's guards. The higher the level of competition, the better Tyus played. Duke was the national champion.
Is Tyus as athletic as Russell Westbrook? John Wall? Of course not. That means he is not one of the top 8 most athletic guards in the league.
Guys who are 17-18-19 years old are generally nowhere near complete as shooters. I can name you dozens of guys who could not make a mid-range shot as a young player and who improved greatly as they went along in the NBA. Magic. LeBron. Jordan. Karl Malone. I mean, I am not talking about just schlubs who struggle to make a roster here. Anyone willing to work on their shot and gets consistent playing time generally becomes a significantly better shooter (Ricky Rubio perhaps being the exception that proves the rule).
NBA Basketball is not an "individual defense" game for most players. If you are Kawhi Leonard or Draymond Green or LeBron, or if you are a center, you may be able to make a positive difference defensively. The other guys? They just need to know where they are supposed to be defensively, get in the way, and do their best to occasionally get a steal or dive for a loose ball.
Tyus's defensive rating last year was 111. That is bad. The Wolves' overall defensive rating last year? 110.8; almost exactly as bad. Among the guys who had worse DRtg than Tyus last year? Andrew Wiggins (113), Shabazz Muhammed (114).
Haters of Tyus Jones are acting as if playing for only spot minutes as a 19 year old PG on one of the worst defensive teams in the league means Tyus's best defensive effort is a 111 DRtg. If he plays at all under Thibs, that rating will go down 4 points immediately, just because his teammates are trying to play defense. And even if it doesn't, since 1979 there are 27 small guards with at least two All-Star selections and a career DRtg of 108 or worse, including Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Steve Nash and Deron Williams. Nash's career DRtg is 111. Mark Price (named a top 100 player of all-time by ESPN) is also on the list.
And a Final Note: the negative reviews of Tyus Jones' ability confuse me. For example, what do we hear about Tyler Ulis's selection by the Suns? "Great pick, steal of the draft, really can run a team, good offensively." The Suns, despite not having to do so for a second round pick, signed him to a guaranteed 2-year deal. Consensus -- He is AWESOME! But he played against Tyus Jones yesterday. Tyus destroyed Ulis. Had it been a fight, they would have stopped it. Jones was bigger, stronger, faster, better shooter. Yet, while Ulis is something akin to Nate Archibald, Tyus sucks?
Then you look at guys around the league -- Mike Conley is signed for $150M. Delly (6'4", 198 pounds) gets $37M. Tyler Johnson (6'4" 186) gets $50M. The Hawks won 60 games with Jeff Teague at the point, and they basically abandoned him shortly thereafter for Dennis Schroder, now both Teague (6'2" 186 lbs.) and Schroder (6'1" 172) will be making big money and starting.
If this is the market for NBA PGs, then why do local media seem to have so much glee that "Tyus will never play"? Why are you happy about that? Cuz he is a local? Cuz he played at Duke? Any objective review of the kid's ability will show you that he is a good solid backup PG, and he should, in the right situation, be a good starting PG. This is a guy who you want to jettison?
I like Tyus Jones, and you should as well.