Welcome to Pounding the Rock’s 2022-23 player reviews! The series will look at all 16 players that finished the season with the Spurs (minus Khem Birch since he never suited up), so we won’t be reviewing players like Stanley Johnson or Isaiah Roby. In the next edition, we will be taking a look at Tre Jones’ performance and his outlook for the future.
2022-23 Stats: 68 games, 12.9 points, 6.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.3 steals 46% FG
2022-23 Salary: $1.78 million
Contract Status: Restricted Free Agent (pending a qualifying offer)
One of the more divisive Spurs players was at many times one of their best last year. Tre Jones was given point guard responsibilities after the departure of former All-Star Dejounte Murray in the previous offseason. While he is certainly a player with flaws in his game, the results were hard to argue.
The counting stats are good for a young starting point guard, but the advanced metrics tell an even stronger story for Jones. He had an assist to turnover ratio of 6:1 and an assist percentage (an estimate of the amount of field goals he assisted while on the floor) of 31%. For example, Cleveland’s Darius Garland, widely heralded as one of the great young guards in the game, had an assist percentage of 34% and an assist to turnover ratio of 2.5:1. He led the team in wins shared (estimated wins added to the team) with 3.4 and was the teams most impactful perimeter defender, with 1 defensive win share (estimated wins added due to defense) and the teams highest steal percentage of 2.1% (amount of possessions ending in a steal by that player.)
Jones was a floor general on the court. He got the Spurs into their offense and was particularly good in the pick and roll. According to Synergy, when Jones was the PnR ball handler, the Spurs scored 0.89 points per possession, which is in the upper half of all NBA ball handlers. He’s able to find teammates in that action, and get to the mid range where he can finish with floaters or acrobatic finishes at the cup. He shot 45% on runners, and 59.1% at the rim last season.
The fatal flaw in Jones’ game is his perimeter shooting. He shot 30% on catch and shoot jumpers last season, and hit just 29% of his three point attempts. Credit Jones for not letting that prevent him from being a non-threat out there. He will still pull the trigger if left wide alone, but with a team that struggled to get a lot of shooting this season, you would hope that your point guard could stretch the floor just a bit more.
Jones finished the season hot, and put up two triple doubles in April. Sure, it was not advantageous to win those games, and he likely won’t be the number one option ever again. But that impressive play definitely proves he has a spot on an NBA floor, it just may not be as a starter on a playoff team.
Things are looking much different for Jones today than they did last week. With the Spurs receiving the top overall pick and Victor Wembanyama on the way, they need someone who can get him the basketball. There is not doubt in my mind that Jones can do that, we saw him thrive as a distributor and operator of the pick and roll. However, would a veteran point guard (like Fred VanVleet) be the team’s preferred method of integrating Wemby into the NBA?
Jones is a restricted free agent and one of the better point guards available on the market. He will likely draw a decent sized deal. The Spurs can still extend him to a four year, $58 million contract. The other option is to sign him to the $5 million qualifying offer, and see what teams are willing to pay him on the open market. Tre likely profiles as this team’s backup point guard, unless he makes significant offensive strides next year. Is the team willing to pay $12 million a year for a strong backup?
Jones was one of the Spurs most impactful players last season. It would be a shame to let that kind of talent walk away, especially given his status as a former second-round pick. It’s nice to hit on unexpected skill, but you have to keep them around for it to count.
April 2nd vs. Sacramento Kings: 17 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists, 1 steal, 7-11 shooting
Final Grade: B+
Up Next: Keldon Johnson