Mar 7, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; San Antonio Spurs draft pick Tre Jones (3) shoots over North Carolina Tar Heels guard Christian Keeling (55) during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
The San Antonio Spurs rookie point guard brings a strong skill set to the team
The 2020 NBA Draft saw the San Antonio Spurs have one of their best drafts in recent memory. With the selections of both Devin Vassell and Tre Jones, the Spurs have set the tone for what this next decade of Spurs basketball will look like.
Drafting two defensive-minded players in different positions, both with obvious spot-up shooting ability and secondary playmaking upside, the Spurs will look to get back to the basics of what originally brought them to the top of the NBA.
The selection of Tre Jones solidifies this thought. Ball movement, efficient three-point shooting, and defense are top priorities for this team going into the 2020s.
Some Spurs fans and NBA analysts have deemed Tre Jones to be the next Patty Mills. It’s a high standard but he can live up to it.
There are three skills Tre Jones brings to the San Antonio Spurs, should he see early season action in 2020. The holes on this current Spurs roster are evident, but Tre Jones has the skill set to fill them quickly if the team asks him to.
Tre Jones can be a spark plug scoring option for the San Antonio Spurs
When you look at Jones’ shooting splits – 42.6 percent from the field, 36 percent from three, and 77 percent from the free-throw line – they don’t wow you. But how he scores his points matters, not all points are created equal.
Tre is one of the best spot-up shooters in his class, with a Patty Mills like ability to run off screens, catch and shoot from deep with ease.
He placed in the 89th-percentile in spot-up shooting during his sophomore year, averaging 1.119 points per possession when spotting-up.
He shot 43.4 percent when spot-up shooting, a number that bumps up by nearly nine percentage points to 51.6 percent when he’s open and shooting off the catch.
In terms of Jones’ overall ability to shoot the basketball, he placed in the 82nd percentile as a catch and shoot scorer. He placed in the better half percentile-wise (56th percentile) as an overall jump-shooter.
His shooting ability is best off the catch and in spot-up situations, but he’s more than capable of also scoring in isolation as well. He placed in the 75th-percentile as an isolation scorer last season, shooting a tick under 40 percent when in isolation.
So despite the strength here obviously being a shooter off the ball, Jones has a game off the bounce to keep defenses honest at the next level.
The significance of his ability to be a spark plug off the bench is important as the Spurs aren’t tied to veteran Patty Mills after this season.
Jones can fill a role similar to what Patty Mills has been asked to do, rather quickly. Jones is a “plus” version of Patty on the defensive end, while also showing an ability to facilitate offense for his team and score on and off the ball.
While San Antonio isn’t expecting Tre to be on the same level as a man who’s jersey will surely be in the rafters when his career is over, Jones can supply a similar output to what Mills has given this team for the better half of a decade.
Next: Versatility off the bench
Feb 10, 2020; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Tre Jones (3) was picked 41st overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the ’20 NBA Draft. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Tre Jones gives the San Antonio Spurs versatility and consistency
When you look at the modern-day sixth man, you need to have the ability to play multiple roles off the bench as a shooter and scorer, as well as facilitate the second-unit offense.
Your sixth man must have one of the highest basketball IQ’s on the roster, as he’s someone who you’ll need to play a plethora of roles and commit to multiple play-styles that fit the personnel on the court throughout the season.
Guys like Dennis Schroder, D.J. Augustin, and Patty Mills can all supply different roles for their teams, something Tre has upside to do as well. The importance of the sixth man/secondary initiator of the offense was on display throughout the 2020 postseason.
Voted the 2019-20 ACC player of the year, Tre Jones’s upside at the next level is evident. While he likely won’t give you starting point guard production, he can be a consistent option off the bench.
Boasting nearly a career average of a 3/1 assist to turnover ratio, while Jones is a reactive passer, he was one of the smartest ball-handlers in D1 basketball.
Not only is his IQ as a traditional point guard unquestioned, but his consistency on the floor is also guaranteed.
Jones had only four games throughout his sophomore season in which he scored less than 12 points and only two games where he registered less than four assists.
On the defensive end, he had 13 games where he registered two or more steals and 23 games where he had two or fewer fouls.
The consistent output Tre gave the Blue Devils last season, is one you can count on in the NBA. His game is predicated on IQ, making the right play on both ends of the floor and not playing outside of his comfort zone.
Jones plays well within his boundaries both skill-wise and athletically, to keep himself in every play and remain consistent throughout a season.
The significance of having a consistent backup point guard, especially for a San Antonio Spurs team that will need it post-Patty, is obvious. Jones has shown the ability to fulfill multiple roles consistently.
He’s shown the ability to be a volume scorer one game, like against Georgia State where he dropped 31 points. He’s shown the ability to be a pure playmaking guard, displaying that twice against both Michigan State and Stephen F. Austin, where he tallied 12 assists in both contests, and lastly he’s been asked to become a defensive anchor along the perimeter, most notably against Wake Forest, NC State, and others, where he registered four steals in each game.
Tre Jones has a multitude of roles he can fill for the Spurs off the bench in 2020 and beyond. With his well-rounded skill set, Jones is well suited to help the San Antonio Spurs start another long playoff streak.
Next: Lockdown 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
The San Antonio Spurs have another elite defender in Tre Jones
Averaging nearly two steals per game in 2019-20, Tre Jones can play passing lanes as well as defend on the perimeter with the best of them in college basketball.
His defensive upside is strongly evident, with the analytical prowess to back it up. We’re not just talking about the fact that outside of post-up defensive possessions and defending bigs rolling to the basket, Tre consistently allowed opposing scorers to shoot under 34 percent across the board, but the versatility in his defensive game is evident.
Across the board, Tre Jones placed in the better half of college basketball percentile-wise on the defensive end of the floor. Through the combination of all his defensive metrics, he placed in the 91st-percentile as a defender.
When you take an even deeper dive into the defensive game of Tre Jones, the numbers back up the fact that he’s deserving of that rank.
He’ll make his money in the NBA defending along the perimeter, where he only allowed 0.655 points per possession. Additionally, opponents shot a staggeringly low 26.3 percent from the field when defended by Tre.
The two most common defensive assignments Jones was given throughout his time at Duke were to defend the pick and roll ball handler and to defend spot-up shooters as a rotational team defender and fighting through screens, playing his man.
When defending the pick and roll ball handler, Jones allowed both 0.622 points per possession and 33.3 percent shooting from the floor, which placed him in the 74th-percentile in that category.
Defending spot-up shooters, he allowed 0.627 points per possession while allowing these shooters to hit at a 25.6 percent clip from the field. This impressive feat placed him in the 92nd-percentile in this category.
Lastly, defending hand-off defensive possessions, Jones allowed only 0.44 points per possession and a field goal percentage of 26.7 percent. Once again, he made waves here as he placed in the 90th-percentile.
The advanced metrics back the fact that he is a plus defender, he’ll give a defensive boost to a Spurs team that was a bottom ten defensive unit last season.
Jones gives you a high-IQ team defender and a consistent on-ball defending option at either guard position. While his size limitations will limit his switch-ability along the perimeter due to him being 6’2 he can play his man straight up while also being a plus as a team defender.
The San Antonio Spurs finally are getting back to their defensive philosophy that held the standard for their team for many years. The addition of Tre Jones takes you one step closer to what the heart of this team has been predicated on for many seasons.
Most San Antonio Spurs rookies struggle to see the floor during their first season with the team but, given all that Tre Jones brings to the table, the coaching staff would be wise to find minutes for him.