Why starting Tre Jones benefits everybody
In Jeremy Sochan’s pre-draft evaluations, he was often labeled as a 'positionless' player or, at the very least, dubbed a point-forward. And, while that’s true to a point, the dangerous thing about throwing that language around (something I was guilty of) is that it leads fans to believe that players are able to seamlessly change positions and on-court responsibilities when this is actually quite far from reality in the large majority of cases. In Sochan’s case, he’s been struggling with that change at times, falsely leading some fans to believe that he’s regressing or isn’t as good of a player as some selected after him in the draft.
Tre Jones is debatably the only “traditional” point guard on the Spurs roster, so even if slotting him in the starting lineup will come at the expense of a bit of size and defensive versatility, he will provide several benefits that Sochan simply can’t at this stage of his career. All of the following are just a few of the laundry list of potential benefits of starting him.
1.) Jones maximizes players’ off-ball potential
While Sochan has been the one handling the rock the most out of the players in the starting lineup, there have been multiple occasions where the Spurs have actually employed more of a “point guard by committee” approach, and while that can work in theory, no Spurs player outside of Jones has the requisite combination of ball-handling ability and playmaking talent to exploit opposing defenses with any real consistency, particularly against talented defensive teams (e.g., the Los Angeles Clippers).
Jones is one of the most reliable guards in the NBA, having earned the 8th best assist to turnover ratio in the entire league this past season while averaging 6.6 assists per game. He’s proven that he sets his teammates up well and keeps turnovers to a minimum, and that’s what he’d continue doing this season in a starting role. This would mean more touches and lobs for Wembanyama, more chances for Sochan to show off his outstanding instincts as a cutter, more open spot-up threes for several players, and more. Jones gets to continue playing to his strengths and everyone else gets better in the process.
2.) Keldon Johnson regains a primary offensive role
Keldon Johnson is debatably still a second option on offense, even with Wembanyama and Vassell on the floor, but were he to come off the bench after Jones is slotted into the starting lineup, his role would be even less ambiguous on a night-to-night basis. Giving him a sixth-man role that allows a bit more offensive freedom could allow him to maintain his impressive production from this past season and his value as an asset in the process, benefitting both him and the team. This move would also ensure more offensive consistency from the Spurs bench unit, potentially leading to more winning basketball.
3.) Sochan gets to develop where it matters
While Sochan has gotten to the free-throw line a hair more so far compared to his rookie season, having him share the court with Johnson, Vassell, and Wembanyama means his role as a scorer is now scaled back even more than it already was, meaning his chances to develop as a scorer are fewer and farther between. So far this season, he’s taken fewer shots and has been less efficient on those shots, particularly inside the arc. Allowing Jones to initiate the offense more regularly while Sochan is on the floor will give him more opportunities to score off cuts, practice his spot-up shooting in game settings, and more opportunities for offensive rebounds and put-backs.
4.) Blake Wesley may see the floor more
An unfortunate, overlooked effect of the point Sochan experiment is that Blake Wesley is seeing very little in-game action--7 total minutes played, to be exact. Wesley hasn't necessarily proven himself or deserves minutes over any particular player, but spending a 1st round pick on a player in the draft only to have them ride the bench is not ideal for anyone involved. But were Sochan to revert to playing most of his minutes off-ball, more PG minutes could open up for Wesley in the process, and it would be wise for the Spurs to see what they have in him considering the sheer amount of future draft picks the team owns.