Tyus Jones earned a reputation for being a killer very early on in his career, being considered the #1 prospect in his high school class entering his junior year, and winning gold medals for USA Basketball at the U16, U17 and U18 levels. He continued to do much of the same in his lone year of college basketball, helping Duke to a national championship behind a heroic 19-point second half performance in the final game against Wisconsin, which earned him Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four honors.
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Jones has average physical tools for the point guard position by NBA standards, being measured around 6-1, with a 190 pound frame and a wingspan between 6-3 and 6-5. He's not an exceptional athlete on top of that, possessing just average speed in the open floor, without a great first step or vertical leap to compensate.
What Jones lacks in measurables he makes up for with balls and brains, as he's incredibly poised, confident and intelligent for an 18-year old, particularly operating in the clutch, earning him the well-deserved Tyus Stones moniker. He needed very little time to make the transition from high school to college basketball, establishing himself as one of the best point guards in the country very early on, posting the third highest PPR and assist to turnover ratio in our Top-100 (behind two 22-year olds).
Jones does a great job of pushing the tempo and getting his team baskets early in the shot-clock, ranking eighth best in college basketball with the 301 points (7.5 per game) he produced in transition this season, according to Synergy Sports Technology. He advances the ball quickly and unselfishly up the floor, regardless of whether he'll get an assist for his efforts, rewarding his big men running the floor with easy baskets, and finding shooters spotting up on the wing. There is no question that he is the type of point guard teammates like playing with.
Jones' creativity as a passer extends to the half-court settings, where he ranked the second most efficient pick and roll player in college basketball after Eastern Washington's Tyler Harvey. Extremely patient and poised, he finds a very nice balance between shooting and passing, which keeps the defenses honest.
Jones has outstanding ball-handling skills and a wide variety of change of speeds and hesitation moves to keep opponents off balance. He sees and utilizes both sides of the floor, and can make every pass in the book, be it off the bounce, lobs, skip-passes, or just bullets right through the heart of the defense. He has elite court vision and passing ability, and does a good job of keeping turnovers to a minimum, with his 2.3 turnovers per-40 minutes ranking as the third best rate among DX Top-100 PGs.
Part of Jones' success on the pick and roll stems from his proclivity for making off the dribble jump-shots. He made 43% of his pull-ups on the season, with his 1.13 PPP in these situations ranking third best among prospects in this draft, behind Tyler Harvey and Corey Hawkins. The threat of his pull-up jumper allowed him to find moderate success as a driver, mostly in terms of hitting crafty floaters outside of the restricted area with soft touch, and initiating and exaggerating contact around the rim to draw fouls and get to the free throw linewhere he converts nearly 90% of his attempts.
Playing alongside another point guard in Quinn Cook, as well as a ball-dominant big man in Jahlil Okafor, Jones also plenty of possessions operating off the ball, where he did a solid job of spacing the floor in Duke's highly efficient offense. He made 39% of his shots with his feet set this year, sporting strong shooting mechanics and touch which leave plenty of room for optimism regarding how he'll develop in this area down the road.
Known as an average shooter early on in his high school career, Jones has worked hard to improve this part of his game, which will be very important to any success he has in the NBA.
The reason for that is Jones' average physical profile, which will put him at a disadvantage on most nights in the NBA. Only standing around 6-1 in shoes, he does not possess a great frame, nor outstanding athleticism.
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That showed up at the college level with his struggles finishing around the basket in traffic, where he converted just 44% of his half-court attempts inside the paint. He doesn't possess the type of blow-by quickness the go get his own shot whenever he pleases like some guards in the NBA these days, and won't be able to simply bulldoze his way through the lane with his relatively underwhelming frame. Things won't get any easier against the significantly more talented big men he'll face in the NBA, which will force Jones to rely even more heavily on his jump-shot and passing ability.
Even more of a concern for scouts is Jones' struggles on the other end of the floor. He was not a very good defender at the college level, even if he was able to improve as the season moved on. He has average lateral quickness, and his lack of strength does him no favors when trying to get over the top of screens.
To compound the issue, Jones is not the most attentive or intense defender, often looking somewhat lackadaisical with his work here. He has very good anticipation skills, as evidenced by the 1.7 steals per-40 minutes he averaged this year, but will have to put a better effort on this end of the floor if he's not to emerge as a liability, which would really hurt his chances of carving out a significant role on a good team. Having a real rim protector behind him to help eliminate mistakes will probably be a key, something he didn't benefit from this year at Duke.
Scouts will be watching the wingspan and standing reach measurements he posts at the NBA combine to try and get a better feel for what his potential is on this end of the floor.
Jones is somewhat of a divisive prospect among NBA scouts, one who draws widely varying reactions and opinions, both positive and negative. On one hand it is hard to understate the amount of success he's had thus far in his career, as a winner everywhere he's been, who played his best games against the best competition he faced all season. His highlight reel of clutch plays is almost unprecedented for a player his age, and the confidence, toughness and feel for the game he displays makes him difficult to bet against him.
On the other hand, his physical profile is clearly that of a backup point guard, not a starter, which may make it difficult for a team to pick him in the lottery. Can he develop into a good enough shooter/scorer to overcome his struggles finishing inside the paint? Will he become a better defender in time? NBA teams will try and learn more about him during the pre-draft process against the likes of Jerian Grant, Cameron Payne and Delon Wright to get a better feel for how to rank them.