San Antonio Spurs Draft: Tre Jones can be the next great bench leader
Feb 22, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard and San Antonio Spurs draft prospect, Tre Jones (3) reacts after hitting a three point basket against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the first half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
The former Duke Blue Devil is ready to lead the San Antonio Spurs bench unit
It’s hard to overstate the impact that Patty Mills has had on the San Antonio Spurs over the past nine years. He’s grown from the loveable, towel-waving young guy into essentially the heart and soul of the team. At this point, it’s hard to picture the Spurs without Patty leading the second unit.
He’s never been the Spurs best player, he’s rarely averaged double-digit points and hardly ever starts, but without him, the Spurs would be lost. Year after year he’s provided leadership and a steady shooting presence off the bench. He can lead the bench unit or play off the starters, he’s capable of bringing the team back into a game or holding onto a lead while the starters get a breather, he’s the perfect glue guy.
But Patty’s time in San Antonio could be coming to an end in the next few years. He’s 31 years old and approaching the last year of his current deal. He’s the type of player that San Antonio will likely keep around until he retires but his on-court production could drop off soon. It’s time for the Spurs to start thinking about his replacement.
Tre Jones isn’t a point guard that gets talked about too much in this draft class. He doesn’t have the star appeal of Killian Hayes and doesn’t have the star appeal of LaMelo Ball, but Jones is ready to lead an NBA lineup and could be the perfect second-round pick for the San Antonio Spurs.
Next: Tre Jones is ready to lead an NBA offense
Feb 25, 2020; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Tre Jones (3) shoots the ball against Wake Forest Demon Deacons guard Brandon Childress (0) during the second half at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Tre Jones can easily lead the San Antonio Spurs second unit
He isn’t flashy, doesn’t jump out of the gym, and isn’t a flamethrower from behind the arc, but Tre Jones can do everything the San Antonio Spurs would ask of him on the offensive end as their backup point guard.
The former ACC Player of the Year is as NBA ready as they come. He’s more than capable of running an NBA offense. He’s a master at setting up his teammates in pick and roll situations and rarely makes mistakes.
In his sophomore year, he averaged an impressive 6.4 assists per game against just 2.7 turnovers. He’ll make wrap-around passes to find his shooters in the corners, nifty dump-offs to his big men for easy dunks, and has a great eye for finding cutting teammates. He won’t have the full court alley-oops like a Ball brother but he’s more than capable of making every pass a true floor general should.
He doesn’t have the quickest first step but he’s got enough shake and shimmy to maneuver his way to the rim when he wants to. He’s much better at working in a pick and roll than he is creating shots for himself in one on one situations but he can do the latter if pressed into it.
One of the biggest question marks around his offensive game has been his ability to shoot the three. He hit on just 26 percent of his long-range attempts during his first year with the Blue Devils but did make an impressive jump to 36 percent in his second season.
That’s still below where you’d like him to be as a shooter but that kind of improvement does inspire some optimism that he will continue to improve as he gets older. His soft shooting touch and solid free throw percentage (77 percent) only add to the belief that he will be able to be a serviceable shooter at the next level.
The biggest criticisms of him on offense are his shaky shooting, which should improve over time, and his underwhelming athleticism. So he doesn’t live above the rim, does that really matter? He’s one of the smartest point guards in this class and will more than make up for the fact that he’s not a dynamic athlete like Russell Westbrook with his sky-high basketball IQ and pristine control of the game.
Next: A menace on defense
Feb 22, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies guard Jalen Cone (15) controls the ball in front of Duke Blue Devils guard Tre Jones (3) during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs Draft: Tre Jones is a pest on the defensive end
When I call Tre Jones a pest on the defensive end I mean it in the most endearing way possible. He makes opposing point guards utterly miserable with his non-stop pressure and quick hands.
This young man was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year as a 6’3 point guard, that’s crazy. He averaged almost two steals per game and was regularly locking up some of the best guards in the country.
One of the most impressive things about Jones on the defensive end is his lateral movement and quick feet. He can shuffle from sideline to sideline, keeping in front of his man the entire time. He’s smooth when navigating around screens and if he does get beat he’s shown a nifty ability to slink in behind his man and poke the ball out and then take off the other way for easy points in transition.
He might struggle to guard some of the bigger, more athletic point guards in the league but he’s got a solid frame already and should be able to add a few more pounds to it once he is able to get a full season in with an NBA team’s strength and conditioning staff.
One of the most exciting things about his defensive ability is just how smart he plays. He’s rarely out of position and is constantly engaged on the defensive end. That can be hard to find in a young player and will surely endear Jones to Gregg Popovich right away.
Next: Tre Jones fits perfectly with the Spurs culture
Mar 2, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Tre Jones (3) hugs forward Justin Robinson (50) after a win against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke won 88-69. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports
Tre Jones fits perfectly with the San Antonio Spurs culture
One of the most important things to consider when thinking about if a player will fit well with the San Antonio Spurs is how they’ll mesh with the Spurs culture. There should be absolutely no worries about that when it comes to Jones.
Coming from a blue blood program led by Mike Krzyzewski, you know that Jones is going to be a polished and mature player. Duke doesn’t really put out knuckleheads as it is but listening to Coach K talk about him you get the feeling that he might be one of the best, most mature players to come out of the program in recent years.
As Coach K told the Adam Gold Show, he completely believes in Jones’s potential and spoke glowingly about his former player.
“Just a natural progression with talent, commitment, attitude. When you have that combination of still-developing talent to go along with work ethic, great attitude and a willingness to be taught, you’re going to get better. At anything. He’s a treasure. He was as competitive as anyone in the country. He not only developed offensively, but he developed his leadership skills. He is a joy, just a joy, and was so deserving of the honors that he received and helped lead a team that was very young.”
I don’t know how anyone can read that and not be completely convinced of the potential that Tre Jones has. Coach K doesn’t speak that complementary of anyone without cause, he truly believes that this young man is both a phenomenal player and, more importantly, a great leader.
The San Antonio Spurs currently have the 41st pick in the 2020 NBA Draft to go with their 11th pick. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor currently has Jones listed as the 38th best prospect on his big board. As the Spurs get closer to their second-round pick they should consider packaging something together to make sure they have a chance to add Tre Jones to their team.
He might not ever make an All-Star team but Tre Jones can fill a crucial role for the San Antonio Spurs for the next decade if they’re lucky enough to add him.