3.) Elite ballhandling could help Jones thrive
When evaluating lead guards in the NBA, and particularly those that play adjacent to star players who command touches, reliability stands above all else. In order to succeed in such an environment, a lead guard doesn’t necessarily have to hit contested pull-up jumpers at a high clip or consistently create their own offense when the game is on the line. Rather, complementary lead guards often only need to be deemed “trustworthy” with the ball in their hands and make good decisions.
Tre Jones already has several qualities of a trustworthy lead guard. He’s a more-than-capable pick-and-roll ball handler with above-average, if not great playmaking talent. Turnovers, in comparison, are few and far between for Jones. He understands how to move and find space without the ball in his hands, creating scoring opportunities for himself in the process. And even at his size, he’s a ballhawk that racks up rebounds and steals. In short, if Jones is on the court, he is doing good things for the team, even if it doesn’t show up in the box scores (and particularly the scoring column).
With all of that in mind, Jones fine-tuning his already developed ball handling is what can transform him from a player who is simply deemed as “trustworthy” into a player who needs to have the ball in his hands when it matters most. Specifically, Jones improving his ability to maintain a live dribble, create counters when the defense is in his face, catch defenders off-balance, and maneuver in tight spaces will enable him to create more opportunities for himself and his teammates even when floor spacing is lacking, which is ultimately the best quality that a lead guard can have.
Essentially, improving as a shooter and athlete are both necessary for Jones, as those are both weak spots in his game in comparison to other NBA guards. But those improvements are only supplementary in what I see as the more impactful, albeit loftier long-term goal: taking a part of his game that he’s already good at (handling the rock) and turning that into an elite NBA skill that separates him from his competition.
By adding strength to his frame, more consistently hitting jump shots on the perimeter, and fine-tuning his ball-handling skills, Jones could quickly prove himself to be a startable NBA point guard and perhaps even the Spurs’ long-term starting point guard.