San Antonio Spurs: Tre Jones finally gets opportunity to shine against OKC

Dec 23, 2020; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tre Jones (33) during the game at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 23, 2020; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tre Jones (33) during the game at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

I can remember exactly how I felt on draft night when the San Antonio Spurs used the 41st pick of the 2020 NBA Draft to select Tre Jones. After Robert Woodard went 40th, Jones was there for the taking. When I heard Mark Tatum announce the pick I lept off my couch in excitement.

I’d written about Jones before the draft and firmly believed that he’d be the perfect second-round pick for San Antonio. He wasn’t the most exciting point guard in his class but he was an incredibly poised player who had just about every tool you want the future leader of your second unit to have.

Since draft day, Jones has only continued to excite Spurs fans. He tore through the G-League bubble, posting ridiculous stat line after ridiculous stat line. Now he’s going to have his chance to prove he can carry that play over to the big stage.

Short-handed San Antonio Spurs will lean on Tre Jones against OKC

After being sidelined for over a week in the aftermath of several positive COVID-19 tests, the San Antonio Spurs will finally be back in action on Wednesday night as they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder. But they won’t be at full strength, not even close.

The Spurs will be without DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Quinndary Weatherspoon, and Derrick White against the Thunder as the six miss the game for various reasons. In response to their now depleted roster, the Spurs turned to their dominant G-League team for reinforcements.

There’s quite a bit of excitement around Luka Samanic, and rightly so. He’s been rampaging through the G-Leauge and should be in for solid minutes against OKC. But don’t overlook the opportunity that Jones has in front of him either.

Without DeRozan and White in the lineup, the Spurs suddenly find themselves without two of their best facilitators. Dejounte Murray has taken impressive steps forward as a playmaker this season but he can’t run the offense by himself for a full 48 minutes, he’s going to need help.

At first glance, Patty Mills might seem like the obvious candidate to pick up the playmaking slack but he’s going to have his hands full with other responsibilities.

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Mills is one of the few Spurs who has a green light whenever he’s on the floor. His veteran experience and command of the second unit give him the freedom to hunt for his own shots with impunity. That’s a role that San Antonio is going to need him to lean even further into against the Thunder.

Without DeMar, Johnson, White, and Gay, the Spurs suddenly have to replace nearly 60 points of offensive production. If LaMarcus Aldridge is unable to play the situation is even bleaker. The Spurs will need Mills to have one of his firestorm games from behind the arc if they want a chance at winning.

This opens the door for Jones to step in as the team’s secondary playmaker behind Murray. It’s a role he’s more than ready for, as his time at Duke and in the G-League more than prove.

Jones averaged 9.7 assists per game in the G-League bubble and had a breakout 16 assist game in his first showing that put him firmly on the radar of the San Antonio faithful. You won’t see him throwing full-court passes or trying to fit it between the legs of defenders but expect plenty of well-timed assists to cutting teammates to set up easy looks.

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The San Antonio Spurs are going to need everyone to step up on Wednesday night, Tre Jones included. Along the way, he might just prove that he’s exactly who we think he can be – the next great Spurs sixth man.