Conspiracy theorists would argue that the Minnesota Timberwolves traded two second rounders in exchange for Tyus Jones, the Minnesota native turned Duke University star, in an effort to boost ticket sales. Others in the wake of the NBA Draft may have thought that within the first few months of his rookie season, Jones would replace Ricky Rubio as the Wolves starting point guard. While both notions seem a bit egregious, particularly the latter, the former is not without merit; of course the homegrown talent is going to attract the prototypical “homer” fan. But to put it politely, Jones is a few years away from challenging Rubio for the starting job, though he is not without upside. It might take a year or two before he comes into his own as an NBA player. And that’s OK!
Basically, if the Wolves drafted Jones solely for the purpose of drawing in the hometown fans, that ploy has turned into a long con. The Timberwolves acquired Jones because of his merits as a prospect. This very website said as much in the days following the draft. Jones received Minnesota High School Player of the Year honors and led Apple Valley to the 2013 Minnesota State High School League Class 4A championship. He led Duke to a National Championship, and was named the 2015 NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Despite his shortcomings, Jones has achieved success at every level of competition in which he has played — until this season, at least so far.
With the Timberwolves, Jones has logged 14-minutes, tallied one point, one rebound, one assist and one steal. He has also missed all five of his shot attempts. In that very, very limited time, Minnesota recorded an absolutely cataclysmic net rating of negative-91.3. Jones more often than not watches his teammates from the bench, wearing a sportcoat, sitting beside Nikola Pekovic. And it is because he has not received much burn that the Wolves earlier this week assigned Jones to the D-League. This is not a demotion. “Going to Idaho will allow Tyus to get some game experience at the professional level,” general manager Milt Newton told reporters following the announcement that Jones had been sent to Idaho.
“With our depth at point guard, we haven’t been able to get Tyus the playing time that he needs. Tyus has a great future in the NBA and this assignment will help the development of his game.”
So where, exactly, is Tyus? And how long will he be there?
Some D-League teams experiment with different styles. For example, the Reno Bighorns, the Sacramento Kings NBADL affiliate, basically attempt to score as many points as possible each game. This sounds silly, because the goal of every team at every level is to score more points than the other team, but the Bighorns, coached by David Arseneault Jr., have committed to scoring at another level. This is evident by the Bighorns blistering points per game average of roughly 120. It is worth noting that Arseneault Jr. was an assistant coach Grinnell College when someone you probably have never heard of, Jack Taylor, posted 138 points in a single game.
While the Bighorns seem fun and all, Jones was picked up via the Flexible Assignment Rule by the Idaho Stampede, affiliate to the Utah Jazz. Though it is not a huge deal, he will neither learn nor practice the Timberwolves offensive and defensive philosophies during this stint in the D-League, however long it may be. The whole purpose of any D-League assignment is to have a player, one not getting much run with an NBA club, compete in actual basketball games.
It would be ideal to have Jones learn the Timberwolves system while he receives added reps in the D-League, but that is not possible, as the Wolves are one of eleven NBA clubs without an affiliate. Moreover, the Jazz are not obligated to develop players from another team. So at the very least, the Stampede, by bestowing him with ample playing time, are doing Jones, and the Wolves, a solid.
Because he is “one of us,” a Minnesota native coincidentally drafted by the Timberwolves, Tyus Jones can easily be made the subject of unrealistic expectations, but those that project such nonviable-presumptions — lookin’ at you, homers! — are only doing him a disservice. Whether it happens in the NBA, or in the D-League, Tyus Jones needs heavy doses of playing time to develop before he finds himself in the Timberwolves rotation.
Last night in his debut with the Stampede, Jones looked good. Not bad, nor great, but good.
He made some difficult shots, and missed some difficult shots, finishing 11-of-22 from the field en route to 27 points. Jones appeared to have some semblance of chemistry with his teammates despite having never played beside them, tallying eight assists, a few of them by way of the always exciting alley-oop. Jones committed two turnovers, and it appears that he still struggles to score using his left hand. His floater game still needs work. But Jones cannot improve without having the chance to make mistakes. And by sending him to the D-League, the Wolves have afforded him the chance to do that.