Utah Jazz NBA Draft Prospects: Duke Guard Tre Jones
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Continuing our examination of NBA draft prospects that could help push the Utah Jazz closer to contender status, we examine Duke sophomore point guard Tre Jones. The Jazz own the 23rd pick in the draft, and the talented sophomore is projected to be selected somewhere in the mid-first to early second round.
The NBA draft is slated for November 18, with the virtual draft combine beginning on September 28. The Jazz first-round pick is their only selection in the draft after trading their second-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Kyle Korver in 2018.
Tre Jones: 6’3, 185 lbs PG/SG – So – Duke
16,2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 42% FG/36% 3p/77% FT
The first thing that jumps out about Tre Jones when preparing for the draft is his incredible steadiness at the point guard position. Jones rarely gets sped up with the ball in his hands or taken out of his point guard mindset. He’s a true floor general that understands the nuances of the game from a lead guard perspective.
Jones averaged a healthy 16.2 points, and 6.4 assists without looking to take over games from a selfish standpoint. Most of his points came in the pick and roll or on open spot-up three-point shots within Duke’s offense at which he connected on a much improved 36 percent from his freshman season.
The sophomore guard doesn’t make eye-opening passes but is clearly aware of where his teammates are both in transition and in the halfcourt. Jones does a terrific job pushing the ball forward of makes and missing against opposing defenses finding fellow Blue Devils streaking towards the rim, and does so with great accuracy.
In the halfcourt, the lead guard is a strong offensive initiator running Duke’s sets without selfishly looking to score. Whether he’s playing off the ball, in the pick and roll, or adlibbing late in the shot clock, Jones looked comfortable making the right play.
Jones regularly found himself trapped by opposing zone defenses in the ACC and found open shooters or big men standing alone in the paint for easy finishes at the rim. Though he rarely looked to take over games offensive, he showed flashes of a killer instinct and clutch shooting in some of Duke’s bigger games.
While Jones is a strong floor leader, his biggest impact in the NBA may come on the defensive side of the floor. Though Jones doesn’t have elite size for a guard at the NBA level, he shows a true understanding of on-ball defense while going up against several NBA prospects throughout his college career.
Jones has the footspeed to keep up with quicker guards (think UNC’s Cole Anthony) or switched onto bigger guards and wings on ball screens. The Duke guard has a terrific motor and relies on defensive fundamentals of moving his feet and using his chest rather than trying to play defense with his hands.
Despite not being an overly aggressive defender, Jones averaged nearly two steals per game during his two-year career at Duke. He’ll have to get bigger in the NBA to develop into a high-level defender at the next level, but it’s hard to imagine Jones not finding a spot in the league with his above-average instincts on both ends of the floor.
Brother Tyus Jones is a five-year NBA veteran, so younger brother Tre has faced his elite older competition his entire life. Won ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year which is no small feat considering the amount of NBA talent across the league.
The cons to Jones game are less about bad habits he’ll have to remedy, and more about the things he’ll likely never develop in the NBA.
First, Jones is only an average athlete by NBA standards. He won’t wow you with above the rim finishes or blazing speed in the full court. It’s just not his game. Part of why he’s such a steady guard offensively is because he doesn’t have the ability to take it to the next gear with the ball in his hands and risk making mistakes.
But due to his lack of athleticism, his upside is lower as an isolation scorer which was apparent at Duke. Jone was unable to push the ball in transition and get easy baskets at the rim simply by blowing past college-level defenders. While he’s skilled in the pick and roll and can find his shots off of screens, he’s going to get locked up by NBA defenders when trying to create his own shot.
At Duke, he was forced to shoot tough midrange jumpers in isolation because he isn’t quick enough to get to the rim, and even when he did, he lacks the burst to finish against bigger defenders. It’s not that Jones can’t finish about the rim, but he’s showed little evidence of being able to leap in traffic. With just a 6’4 reported wingspan, he can’t make up for his lack of size with enormous reach a la Donovan Mitchell.
He showed tremendous promise in his improvement as a three-point shooter, jumping from 26 percent as a freshman to 36 percent as a sophomore, but likely won’t ever be an elite three-point shooter. Jones shows promise as a spot-up shooter squaring up and firing, but struggles to find balance as a shooter either on the move or with the ball in his hands. That will limit his ability to bend defense as a curl man the way the best shooters in the league can do.
How Tre Jones Fits with the Jazz in the NBA Draft
Jones fits the Jazz in the draft both from a need standpoint and in the team’s history of preferring blue blood prospects when selecting in the first round. Since Dennis Lindsey took over the team’s front office in 2013, the Jazz have selected players from Michigan, Duke, Kentucky, or Louisville each year the team has kept its pick.
The Jazz have a strong relationship with Duke’s staff, with coach Quin Snyder having both played for and coached with Mike Krzyzewski with the Blue Devils. When the Jazz selected Rodney Hood in 2014 despite injury concerns that scared other teams off, it was believed the Jazz were comfortable selecting the guard based on information they received directly from the Duke staff.
Additionally, the Jazz appeared to reach when selecting Duke’s Grayson Allen in the first round of the 2018 NBA draft, but Allen has proven to be the type of player the Jazz could have utilized had he not been shipped to Memphis in a trade.
If there is unseen potential from Jones’ game that was missing due to Duke’s system, the Jazz may get a better sense of it than any other team in the draft due to their relationships with the program.
From a fit standpoint, Jones’s role could eventually develop to resemble that of Ricky Rubio who spent two seasons in Utah as a steady offensive initiator and strong defensive presence alongside Mitchell. If Jones can maintain or improve his 36 percent three-point shooting, he has a chance to be a starting point guard in the NBA.
Regardless, it’s easy to imagine Jones filling the role that former University of Utah guard Delon Wright has shown alongside Luka Doncic in Dallas.
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