Tre Jones is the best point guard on the Spurs roster. He’s not a perfect player, but has a well rounded game that suits the start guard spot well. With no major upgrades coming over the offseason, and an uncertain guard rotation behind him, it seems nearly certain he will be the starter again next season.
Jones took on the role of the San Antonio Spurs starting point guard last season and had the best year of his young career. He averaged 12.9 points, 6.6 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 45.9% from the field. He was 8th in the NBA in assist to turnover ration, scoring four assists to his one turnover. He lead the team in wins shared (an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player.) He had a high steal percentage (2.1%,) and was one of the Spurs leaders in defensive wins shared.
Nearly all of the data would suggest that Jones is a productive NBA player. There is just one defect that holds him back from being viewed as a key piece of the Spurs young core – his 28.5% three-point percentage.
Jones isn’t a volume shooter. He only took 2.3 a game (he shot 158 threes and made 45.) The Spurs don’t need him to be. They have plenty of guys like Devin Vassell, Zach Collins, and Doug McDermott to take five-to-six threes a night. They just need him to be a threat from deep. He has not been that in his first three NBA seasons.
With new shooting coach, Jimmy Barron, can Jones improve as a three point shooter under new tutelage? Barron has been credited with improving the jump shots of Kevin Love, Jett Howard and Derrick Rose. He emphasizes fluidity, which is something that Jones’ jumper could use.
I watched all 158 of Jones’ three-point attempts last season, and was surprised with what I found. When Jones is stepping into a three, or shooting them off of the dribble, he looks fluid and confident shooting the rock. He only shot 9-39 on three-point dribble jumpers, but anecdotally he looks smoother on those attempts.
Now contrast those shots with his spot up looks. Jones ball has a strange path that starts with his load-up. He almost always brings the ball to the left side of his body, then brings the ball up to the right for his release. Sometimes he will catch the ball on the right side, bring it to his left on the load, and shoot it back on the right side, making an almost circular motion before he releases. This odd path before release makes his shot look stiff. (I’ve slowed down his gather to give you a better look of his load-up)
I’m no shot doctor, but if you watch other effective NBA shooters, typically the path from load-up to release is straight, not curved, or diagonal. Streamlining his shot and making it a bit more fluid could help him improve his shot from range. I’ll be following what solutions Jones and Barron work on together to help him boost his percentage.
It seem unrealistic for Jones to become an above league average three-point shooter (36.1%) in the span of a year. There is precedent that he could improve his shooting percentage, and it comes from someone that shares his DNA.
This may be a lazy comparison, but I looked to his brother, Tyus Jones, to see what kind of progress is realistic. In limited playing time Tyus shot under 36% in his first fours seasons. In his first season shooting over 130 attempts (as close as I could get to the amount of threes Tre shot this year) he hit 32% of them. The next season, he took 200 threes and made 39%. Just last season, Tyus made 37% of his threes on 326 attempts. He went from inconsistent shooter, to near knock down over the span of his eight-year career.
Tre is going from 28%, rather than 32%, and didn’t shoot the ball as well as his brother on limited attempts. There is evidence that he could become a better shooter over time, but a 7% jump like his brother feels unrealistic. Just seeing him progress by 4 percentage points would be good progress. If he can shoot above 30% this season, that seems like a win.
Jones has a real opportunity in front of him this season to establish himself as a strong connector alongside young scorers like Victor Wembanyama, Keldon Johnson and Vassell. To elevate his game to another level, he needs to be respectable from deep. That will help open up the floor for the Spurs shot creators. He’s one of Barron’s first projects in San Antonio. Time will tell if these two will find the answer to Jones shooting woes.