Minnesota Sports

Free Tyus: It’s Time for a Changing of the Guard

There is no shortage of point guards in Minnesota. The Timberwolves now have four 1’s on the roster after acquiring Jerryd Bayless in the Jimmy Butler trade, leaving the backcourt a muddled mess with limited playing time to go around. But with recent injuries sustained by key players, the Timberwolves are getting a look of all possible options for this season and the years to come. So what should the Wolves do?

With Jeff Teague and Derrick Rose getting sidelined due to injuries, Tyus Jones has been thrust into the starting role. With everything to prove, Jones has been brilliant as the teams’ new lead facilitator. His unselfish play has blended excellently with the scoring ability of players such as Karl-Anthony Towns and shooters such as Robert Covington. The offense just appears to run smoother with Jones at the helm, signaling that it is time for a changing of the guard in Minnesota.

In his last three games as the starter, Jones has been putting up the kind of numbers the Timberwolves should be looking to get out of the point guard position with their current lineup. Over the trio of contests, he is averaging around 11.5 points, 8 assists, 3.3 steals, and has turned the ball over just one time. Jones’ ability to limit turnovers while dishing out dimes to the Wolves bevy of offensive playmakers has been one of the biggest assets he provides to the team. When it comes to assist to turnover ratio, there is not a single player in the NBA who tops the former Duke point guard. According to NBA Advanced Stats, Jones’ AST/TO ratio is 6.8. No other player has a ratio over six, and the next closest player is Denver’s Monte Morris who sits at 5.7. In comparison, starting point guard Jeff Teague’s AST/TO ratio is at 3.56 for the 2018-19 season. Even when Teague comes back from injury, Tyus should get continue to get a large portion of the minutes or even stay in the starting lineup.

Jeff Teague’s latest injuries have brought opportunities to Derrick Rose and Tyus Jones. Photo Credit to Brad Rempel/USA TODAY – Sports

Teague has been a big disappointment this year, continuously stalling the offense with his frantic dribbling and what seems to be an unwillingness to shoot. Teague’s numbers aren’t terrible this year, as he is averaging 11.6 points, 8.3 assists, 1 steal and about 2 turnovers a game. The problem with those numbers is that they are almost identical to Jones’ last three games as a starting point guard, and Teague’s style of play also slows down the offense and leads to more turnovers. Looking at it from a salary cap perspective, is not an ideal situation to be paying Teague 19 million dollars a year while he is putting up the same numbers as Jones, who makes roughly 1.6 million a year. In addition, Derrick Rose (on a veteran’s minimum contract) is putting up better numbers than Teague while in a bench role.

Rose has been nothing short of an electric scorer for the Timberwolves this season. Time after time Rose has channeled his former MVP self to make ridiculous plays and put up big numbers, including a 50-point performance against the Jazz on Halloween. He has been tremendous in the role of sixth man, as he has averaged 18.9 points, 4.8 assists while shooting 48.6% from the field along with a staggering 46.2 three-point percentage. The issue with Rose is that he is most likely not going to return to the Wolves after this year, as he is an unrestricted free agent after this season. With the Wolves current salary issues, there is a slim chance that they can outbid a team who can offer more for his services.

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Derrick Rose shrugs after a tough shot falls. Photo by CBS News, WDEF.com

This leaves the Timberwolves in a bit of a predicament. With Derrick Rose almost surely not returning and Jeff Teague’s terrible contract, the Wolves have some big decisions to make. When it comes to the future of this team, there should be four major moves made.

First: Trade Jeff Teague

While Teague’s contract is certainly not ideal, he could still provide some value for a team looking for backcourt depth. It would also be beneficial for the Wolves as they could free up some much needed cap space and potentially land a solid piece in return. The Timberwolves have looked out-of-sorts the past couple of weeks and a potential Jeff Teague trade could provide some much needed rejuvenation for a team fighting to find their identify.

Note: Trey Flynn of Dunking With Wolves provides a few trade possibilities for the Timberwolves and Jeff Teague.

Second: Sell Derrick Rose High at the Deadline

This idea may not sit well with some Timberwolves fans. Rose has been one of the few bright spots to a rough start to the 2018-19 season and has quickly evolved into a fan favorite. This is why the Wolves may be able to obtain a good return for Rose though, as his ability to provide scoring or playmaking off the bench as a sixth man or even as a starter would garner interest from contenders. If the Wolves are on the outside of the playoff hunt looking in, it would be in their best interest to trade Rose, as they would more than likely receive a 1st round pick in return.

Third: Go All in on Tyus Jones

Tyus Jones is a hometown hero for the state of Minnesota. Even through his struggles, the state has backed him because they want to see him succeed. Over his last three games, his stellar play in increased minutes have been a breath of fresh air for Wolves fans. He has shown that he is more than capable of leading the offense as a starter and his stats show that he is one of the best facilitating point guards in all of the NBA. His contract status, unlike Derrick Rose’s, is as a restricted free agent. This allows the Wolves to match any offer he receives, which likely wouldn’t come at too high of a cost.

Fourth (and final): Draft a Point Guard

As of now, the Timberwolves currently hold the 11th worst record in the NBA. That is good for a lottery position in the NBA draft, and while there is still a lot of season left, the Wolves should have a few point guards in mind when it comes to the draft. There are two very impressive point guards (depending on their availability in the draft) that could benefit the Wolves almost instantly.

Ja Morant, Murray State

At 6’3 and 175 pounds, Morant is a very intriguing prospect. He doesn’t play at a major division one school, but is still putting up amazing numbers and at a consistent rate. In his current sophomore season, Morant is averaging 23 points per game, dishing out nearly 10 assists per contest, and grabbing almost seven rebounds per game. The one downfall to his game is that he is not a top-tier three-point shooter, as he takes 4.5 threes a game, but is only connecting on about 29% of them. He more than makes up for the poor shooting by displaying his crazy athleticism all over the court, making him a top-notch point guard that would be a steal for the Wolves.

Tre Jones, Duke

How crazy would this be? A Jones brother reunion in Minnesota would surely draw in a ton of new fan interest as both brothers were high school phenoms while at Apple Valley HS. At 6’2 and a 183 pounds, he has the same athletic and tough build that his older brother Tyus possesses. They both have very similar style of play, as they don’t need to score to significantly impact the game. On a loaded Duke roster, Jones is contributing 8.7 points per game to go along with 5.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds. While the numbers aren’t as flashy as someone like Morant, Jones is essentially playing with the top three picks in the draft in Zion Williamson, R.J. Barret, and Cameron Reddish. Tre would provide a nice boost off the bench and would make everyone around him better, just like his brother.

With the Wolves, struggling as of late, it might be time to make some moves that will benefit the future. Trading Teague and Rose for some young guns and draft picks would do just that. Giving Tyus Jones the starting point guard job for the future along with drafting an explosive player such as Morant or Tre Jones could set up the Wolves up for success at the playmaker position for years to come.

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