Grizzlies

How Tyus Jones Became The Best Value In The NBA 

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The role of the understudy is to learn another’s role in order to be able to act as a replacement at short notice. 

Sounds like the job description of a backup point guard doesn’t it? The notion of a player who is kept back from action to reinforce or protect others during an emergency might as well be synonymous with the name Tyus Jones

Throughout his seven years in the NBA, Jones has made a living exemplifying this very idea and has subsequently redefined the value that a backup point guard can have in this league.

In the process ‘Stones’ has proven that the backup point guard position is a vital piece to the sustainability of a team’s championship aspirations.    

Next Man Up

By now the idea of “next man up” with the Grizzlies and their culture has been commented on ad nauseam. What is often not discussed, however, is that in order to be able to buy into this notion a player has to first be available to even be considered as the next man up.

This is where Tyus Jones stands head and shoulders above the majority of his teammates. 

In his three seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies, Jones has appeared in 208 out of a possible 246 games with the team. That’s 85% of his games. 

Omit his absences that are attributed to the 2019/2020 “Bubble,” then Jones has appeared in 88% of his total games with the Grizzlies. 

Eighty-eight percent

Jones has been available at a ridiculously high clip during his time on Beale Street, and it is a point of his game that is often forgotten when his name is brought up. When Ja Morant is your team’s point guard, the availability of his backup should be a topic of conversation. 

Quite The Run

Much was made about the Grizzlies 20-5 run during the absence of their superstar last season.

The sheer electricity with which Morant plays invites more health risks than some stars in the league have. 

Thankfully, Memphis has a point guard ready to fill in for “12” that many in the league would want to be their starter. 

The average of Tyus’ stats across his 23 starts last season are: 

  • FG%: 0.448
  • 3P%: 0.377
  • FT%: 0.745
  • TRB: 3
  • AST: 7
  • STL: 1
  • TOV: 1
  • PTS: 13 

By comparison, here are Morant’s season stats:

  • FG%: 0.493
  • 3P%: 0.344
  • FT%: 0.761
  • TRB: 6
  • AST: 7
  • STL: 1
  • TOV: 3
  • PTS: 21

It really is amazing when one begins to think of just how much worse you could do as an organization when filling in for the player who captains the ship.

Jones has proven on numerous occasions that should he be called upon to substitute in an emergency, not only will he be ready; he will thrive. 

Jack of All Trades, Master of One

What has separated Jones from his contemporaries across the league is the consistency he brings to his game. He has led the league for four seasons in a row in assist to turnover ratio

For those of you not listening: Tyus Jones has led the league in assist to turnover ratio for four seasons in a row

Let that sink in for a minute.

Has the absurdity of it hit you yet? Here’s a breakdown of that stat for the past four seasons:

Good luck getting the ball out of this man’s hands; he’s not giving you the ball unless he wants you to have it.

Oh and it translates, too. 

Of all the lineup combinations used by the Grizzlies last season, there were 19 that were used in more than ten games together. Out of those different combos, Tyus appeared in nine of them.

Every single one of those nine lineup combos boasted a PIE (player impact estimate) of at least 46.

If there’s someone who is going to have to take over at point guard or take over the starter’s duties for a spell, Tyus Jones is about as perfect of a replacement that you could ask for.

Especially considering his contract.

A Tale of Two Contracts

The Grizzlies signed Tyus Jones this past offseason to a two year contract worth $29,000,000, fully guaranteed, with an average annual salary of $14,500,000. On a per year basis, this pays him as the twenty-fourth highest-paid point guard in the league. 

This is in contrast to his previous contract with Memphis, a 3 year deal worth $26,445,300, with $23,895,300 guaranteed at signing. This made for an average annual salary of $8,815,100, making him the thirty-fifth highest-paid point guard in the league.

Would it have been nice to continue keeping Jones on a bargain deal such as the one he was on?

Yes. 

Would this have been fair, and would Tyus have remained in Beale Street Blue if lowballed?

Hard no. 

The beauty of this new contract is it pays him like the player he is now, while still giving him the option for a third contract another two years down the line. Still only being 28 then, he will still be in his prime, and so far he has shown no signs of bailing on Memphis anytime soon. 

The market will be there for him. 

The interesting thing that he’ll find when he gets there is that his sustained excellent play has forced the market to change the way it looks at and values his position.

Let’s hope teams have budgeted accordingly. 

Stacking Up Stones 

It’s not hard to see the market for “Stones,” especially when you see how the point guard stacks up against some of his counterparts.

Look at Tyus’ stats from his starts last season and compare them to some other starters from around the NBA. 

  • Player 1 – FG%: 0.403, 3P%: 0.377, FT%: 0.874, TRB: 4, AST: 7, STL: 2, TOV: 3, PTS: 20
  • Player 2 – FG%: 0.448, 3P%: 0.377, FT%: 0.745, TRB: 3, AST: 7, STL: 1, TOV: 1, PTS: 13

Player 1 was Fred VanVleet. Player 2 Tyus Jones. 

  • Player 1 – FG%: 0.448, 3P%: 0.377, FT%: 0.745, TRB: 3, AST: 7, STL: 1, TOV: 1, PTS: 13
  • Player 2 – FG%: 0.473, 3P%: 0.297, FT%: 0.750, TRB: 4, AST: 6, STL: 1, TOV: 3, PTS: 23

Player 1 was Jones. Player 2 De’Aaron Fox

  • Player 1 – FG%: 0.411, 3P%: 0.340, FT%: 0.825, TRB: 3, AST: 7, STL: 1, TOV: 3, PTS: 18
  • Player 2 – FG%: 0.448, 3P%: 0.377, FT%: 0.745, TRB: 3, AST: 7, STL: 1, TOV: 1, PTS: 13

Player 1 was D’Angelo Russell. Player 2 was Jones. 

  • Player 1 – FG%: 0.448, 3P%: 0.377, FT%: 0.745, TRB: 3, AST: 7, STL: 1, TOV: 1, PTS: 13
  • Player 2 – FG%: 0.462, 3P%: 0.327, FT%: 0.794, TRB: 8, AST: 9, STL: 2, TOV: 3, PTS: 21

Player 1 was Jones. Player 2 Dejounte Murray

These players are no slouches at the position; when you look at their numbers compared to Tyus, it’s not difficult to imagine front offices across the league attempting to rebalance their books when they see the value they could getting signing him. 

Granted, could Tyus afford to score more? Of course he could, but what player in this league wouldn’t want to focus on scoring more? The style in which he plays is not one that lends itself to explosive offensive showings.

That’s not to say it’s not well within his bag of tricks to pull out a 25+ point game. Look no further than his 27 point showing against NOLA this past season.

It’s just to say that it’s not a priority of his game. And when Ja Morant is your point guard?

Can’t say that explosive offensive outings is something Memphians are too worried about. 

Changing the Game

As basketball has continued to evolve over the years, so have the positions in the league and their subsequent value.

So often people say that a backup point guard can be acquired through the draft, which may be true. 

But what teams can’t do is acquire a backup point guard who exemplifies the definition of a “team player,” amplifies the play of every teammate around him and consistently puts forth excellence in the way he approaches the game of basketball.   

The fact that Tyus Jones has forced the league to reevaluate just how they view their star’s backup is nothing short of incredible. When looking at the Memphis Grizzlies’ championship window over the next two years, there’s a name that must not be forgotten when bringing up the likes of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, or the other members of #GrzNxtGen.

Call the man “Stones.” 

Craving More Grizzlies?

Check out last week’s Deep Dive Piece on Ziaire Williams by Nathan Qualls (@MemGrizzHomer), How Ziaire Williams Will Be Memphis’ X-Factor This Season. And be sure to check out the Grizz 901 Podcast, where the Grizz Lead guys get on to discuss these Deep Dive players and much, much more!

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