On Wednesday, the Memphis Grizzlies laid the smackdown on the Golden State Warriors, and Tyus Jones played a crucial role in the victory.
It was nothing new for Jones, who hath been a stellar backup point guard for Memphis. The Grizzlies finished with 20 wins and 5 losses in games without Ja Morant during the regular season. Jones was one of the main reasons for the success.
Earlier this season, I called Jones of the most underrated players in the league. His value is his playmaking, and he can make an impact with a low usage rate. But we saw some of his scoring potential against the Warriors, recording a team-high 21 points on just 12 field-goal attempts.
We don’t yet know what will happen with player options for James Harden and Kyrie Irving. But otherwise, the top-tier free agency talent is Deandre Ayton, Zach LaVine, Miles Bridges, Jalen Brunson, and Anfernee Simons.
However, there is a fairly sizable dropoff after that, and Jones might just be the next-best player available. If he decides to leave Memphis as a free agent, here are some of the top destinations he could call home.
According to Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Chris Fedor, the Cavs “would have interest” in Jones as a free agent this offseason.
From Cleveland’s perspective, the fit makes a lot of sense. They had the second worst turnover percentage in the Eastern Conference in 2021-22, which is an area Jones can immediately help.
Jones had one of the lowest turnover rates among guards, consistent with his game throughout his entire professional career. His court vision and ball control when in the open court are both especially insane. According to Synergy, Jones recorded 71 assists and just 2 turnovers in transition during the regular season. That is quite literally as good as it gets.
The Cavs are likely a non-taxpayer mid-level team, which means they can offer Jones the full mid-level exception of $10.2 million. If they decide to move on from Collin Sexton and/or Ricky Rubio, Jones makes sense as a replacement.
Like the Cavs, the Knicks are likely a non-taxpayer mid-level team, which means they can also offer the full mid-level exception of $10.2 million. But according to Fred Katz, that might not be enough (via The Athletic):
“I remain convinced Jones’ asking price will be above the Knicks’ budget. He’s one of the best backup point guards in the league and tremendously important to the Grizzlies, who went 20-5 without Ja Morant this season, in part because of Jones’ contributions backing up the All-Star guard. He shoots, guards and is royalty in the assist-to-turnover kingdom. I think there’s a realistic chance Memphis gives him more than the mid-level.”
If his assessment is correct, New York may not be able to afford Jones without making a trade, and he isn’t the star player teams typically trade assets to make room for.
You should know this about Tyus Jones: The only players to score more points on runners this season were NBA stars Trae Young, Ja Morant, Luka Doncic, and LaMelo Ball.
According to Synergy, in fact, no player finished possessions on runners more often than Jones (43% of his finishes were on this play type). Outside of Portland’s Trendon Watford, the only other player to finish more than 30% of their possessions on runners was Jones’ brother Tre.
I’m bringing this up because Tre plays for the Spurs, the only team that lets their players shoot floaters comparably as often as the Grizzlies. San Antonio derives a large share of its offense from floater range (between 4 and 14 feet), so Jones would be empowered to shoot his shot.
The Spurs have a relatively thin backcourt after trading Derrick White to the Celtics, and it could get thinner if they let Lonnie Walker go in free agency.
Especially if Walker leaves, San Antonio’s front office will have significant cap space this offseason. They could potentially sign Jones to a fair contract while maintaining room to make other moves.
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