After starting the season playing limited minutes behind All-Star Dejounte Murray, second-year guard Tre Jones emerged as a key player for the San Antonio Spurs. That increased role was a direct result of his solid play and even led to him playing alongside Murray in two-point-guard lineups, which gave the Spurs a different look on offense.
Despite that, Jones is an awkward fit in most lineups due to his lack of 3-point shooting, hitting just 19.5% of his 51 3-point attempts this season. To his credit, Jones compensated by hitting 54% of his shots inside of the arc, effectively using pullups, floaters, and layups to put points up.
That's good, but having a point guard that barely shoots threes is a problem. Jones is at his best with the ball in his hands and when creating for others, but as his role increases, he'll be forced to play more without the ball, and that could limit his offensive effectiveness. After all, teams aren't going to guard a non-threat from outside, so Jones will need to improve as a shooter to keep from being an offensive liability in those lineups.
Jones' game is reminiscent of former Spur Cory Joseph, who, like Jones, relied heavily on pullups and shots at the basket to be an offensive threat while also being a good playmaker and defender. That made Joseph a useful player, and he went on to have a long career, just not with San Antonio, who chose Patty Mills and his shooting over him.
Jones may also have a long career but could eventually be replaced if he doesn't modernize his game. After all, point guards who can knock down open shots aren't exactly hard to find. Joshua Primo could eventually fill that role. Or maybe the Spurs use one of their picks in the 2022 NBA Draft to add another guard.
Fortunately, despite his shooting struggles this season, Jones still has a chance to become a respectable 3-point shooter based on key indicators. In college, during his final season at Duke, he hit 36.3% of his 3.7 3-point attempts per game and shot 77% from the free throw line. Additionally, he has hit 80% of his free throws in the NBA.
That doesn't necessarily mean he'll become a knock-down shooter, but generally speaking, players who shoot poorly from the line rarely become good shooters, whereas Jones has been consistently good. That suggests that he has good shooting touch, but his shot just needs refining.
Jones isn't nearly as bad of a shooter as his 3-point percentage might suggest and he's undoubtedly been working to finetune his 3-point shot, but it could take some time. In the meantime, Jones is still a capable player but, with an outside shot, he could solidify his role and become the team's long-term backup point guard.
All in all, Jones emerged as a solid rotation player for the Spurs this season despite a key flaw in his game. He'll need to improve as a 3-point shooter or risk eventually losing his role. Luckily, Jones has shown some shooting ability and could eventually do just that.
If he can modernize his game, he could prove to be a great long-term backup point guard.