Are the Memphis Grizzlies asking Tyus Jones to do too much?

Tyus Jones, Memphis Grizzlies (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
Tyus Jones, Memphis Grizzlies (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images) /

One of the biggest and most important pieces of business over the summer for the Memphis Grizzlies was getting Tyus Jones re-signed to a contract extension.

The Grizzlies and Jones were able to work out a two-year agreement that made him the highest paid backup point guard in the NBA. The move ensured superstar Ja Morant would have the steadiest of hands filling in for him in relief minutes or if he ever has to miss games.

It’s a small sample size and early in the season, but things are trending differently this year for Tyus Jones and the Memphis Grizzlies.

Memphis Grizzlies Tyus Jones being stretched too thin early in the NBA season?

Because the Memphis Grizzlies have been ravaged by injuries and early-season illnesses, the seven-year pro out of Duke is having to be relied upon heavily in the early slate of games.

Jones put on a display in the Oct. 29 game at Utah, filling in as the starter for a sick Ja Morant, posting an outstanding 23-point, 10-assist performance in the loss. But, if you take that standout performance away, he’s been uncharacteristically uneven this season, despite being depended on more than ever.

He’s on track to play a career-high in minutes per game, currently sitting at 25.4 mpg, which would be more than four minutes extra per game than last season’s 21.2 mpg. The 26-year-old has a surprising amount of miles on his legs for someone so young. He’s played in 463 regular season games and 21 playoff games.

To compare, Minnesota Timberwolves point guard D’Angelo Russell, also age 26 and also with seven seasons of experience under his belt, has competed in 432 regular season games and 11 playoff games— and he’s been a starter his entire career (29.4 mpg average in his career).

The Grizzlies are basically asking Jones to give starter-level production as a backup, which is a tall task, but necessary with the lack of depth on the team right now. Head Coach Taylor Jenkins has been putting him alongside Ja Morant more frequently this season, which has produced mixed results. The two have appeared on the court together in seven games for an average of around 10.1 minutes per game, but have produced one of the worst plus/minus’ of any two-man combo for the Grizzlies this season at -5.7— the sixth worst two-man combo to date for the team.

Jones is also averaging a career-high 11 field goal attempts per game, which is fourth most on the team— way up from the 7.6 FGA he averaged last season for the Memphis Grizzlies. He’s connecting on just 44.3% of his attempts, the second-worst percentage during his tenure with the team. The shooting woes don’t stop there for Jones, however. The normally soft-handed point guard is shooting an abysmal 37.5% from the free-throw line (on just eight attempts), despite being better than an 80% shooter from the line throughout his career.

Perhaps more troubling is his uncharacteristically high turnover rate. The assist-to-turnover ratio king normally takes such good care of the ball, but is on pace to average 1.4 turnovers per game this season— double the amount from last year. Granted, he’s averaged less than one turnover per game his entire career, it’s just a bit staggering to see a figure go up by 50 percent in any statistical category.

Jones is also the owner of the worst overall plus/minus figure on the team, clocking in at -7.3 this season through the first eight games. No one on the team has a worse plus/minus than Tyus Jones right now, with Xavier Tillman (-7.2) and David Roddy (-5.0) coming closest, which is concerning for someone that’s a key cog for Memphis Grizzlies.

Once the Grizzlies get Ziaire Williams and Jaren Jackson Jr. back from their injuries, it will make the rotations a little more normal and routine, hopefully alleviating some of the pressure on Jones’ shoulders right now.

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Hopefully this is just a bad slump for the normally stable Tyus Jones and not a troubling trend for one of the most important pieces on the Memphis Grizzlies’ roster. Nonetheless, it’s something to keep an eye on over the course of the next few weeks.