Why the Spurs should reinstate Tre Jones as their starting point guard

San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns
San Antonio Spurs v Phoenix Suns / Mike Christy/GettyImages

The 2023-2024 NBA season is in full swing, and this young Spurs squad has experienced countless ups and downs through their first 15 games. One of the most significant debates in the early goings has been the point guard dilemma between Jeremy Sochan and Tre Jones. Though the former has displayed promising flashes of what he could become and is only a sophomore learning an entirely new position, the latter is the obvious answer for who should run the offense moving forward.

Some fans advocated for a mutual breakup between the Spurs and Jones this summer. However, it has been abundantly clear that re-signing him to an extraordinarily cheap and team-friendly contract has been a success for both parties. And there are plenty of reasons for Tre to be the starting point guard as San Antonio navigates the next phase of their rebuild.

Jones has taken a significant leap for the Silver and Black. Though the offense dragged at times last season with lackluster half-court execution, the fourth-year guard was one of the few dependable playmakers on the team. He has only continued progressing as a game manager, and San Antonio looks more fluid when he is on the floor. Tre creates efficient looks for his teammates when pushing the pace and takes advantage of fast breaks better than anyone else on the roster.

Gregg Popovich opened the season trying to maximize the size and length of the youngest squad in the NBA, rolling out a starting lineup of Jeremy Sochan, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Victor Wembanyama, and Zach Collins. While that seemed like a recipe for success on paper, it has yet to yield positive results. Instead of creating mismatch nightmares, this group has led to a frustrating cycle of stalled possessions, subpar shots, and endless turnovers.

However, when Jones checks into the contest, most of those issues are nonexistent. The tempo rises, and the ball movement improves. He is extremely capable of dictating the flow of the offense and creating high-percentage looks off the dribble for his teammates, and the numbers prove it. Jones has averaged a team-high 5.3 assists per game, yet he is only sixth in minutes played for the Spurs.

Not only has Jones developed as a floor general, but he has continued doing what he does best: taking care of the basketball. The former Duke standout has built a reputation for protecting the rock, and he recorded a 4.07 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, which ranked eighth in the NBA. That mark has slightly slipped, sitting at 3.5 through 12 games, but his recent uncharacteristic mistakes against the Clippers skewed the data.

Jones may not be the long-term solution, but his presence benefits one instrumental French sensation. Victor Wembanyama improves drastically across the board when Jones is at point guard. Out of the 38 two-player combinations who have shared the court for at least 75 minutes, Wemby and Jones hold the second-highest net rating (+9.5) on the Spurs. Tre consistently leads Vic to the rim in the pick-and-roll and finds him on lobs when they are running in transition.

Overall, the Spurs produce better offense with Jones at the one. The five-person lineup of Jones, Vassell, Johnson, Wembanyama, and Collins has outscored opponents by 29 points in 16 minutes of play together, and they have an offensive rating of 114.3 and a defensive rating of 85.3. Swap in Sochan for Jones, and San Antonio has a -11.1 net rating in 82 minutes so far.

In a season where the Spurs went into the year without a clear picture of who would assume primary point guard duties, Jones has made a case for himself with his leadership and careful facilitation. We're still early in this process, but there is plenty of time for adjustments. If Popovich wants to experiment, now is the time. But the trial and error from Point Sochan has highlighted their need for a reliable floor general. Tre is the clear answer, but we will see how well this holds up.