Duke freshman point guard Tyus Jones enters NBA draft, likely first-round pick

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And Tyus Jones makes three.

Wednesday Jones became the third player from Duke’s national championship team to declare for the NBA Draft. He joins Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow in that class, although the other two are expected top 10 picks and Jones likely goes later in the first round.

Jones had a strong season for the Blue Devils, averaging 11.8 points, 5.6 assists, 3.5 boards and 1.5 steals a game this season. He was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

If you watched him in the Final Four you saw a guy with some skills that will translate to the next level — he’s good on the pick-and-roll, he can get into the lane, he’s got a decent outside shot, and he just knows how to run a team. But there are questions about his defense and, more importantly, his ceiling, which hold him down a little. DraftExpress.com has him going No. 20.

Here is what PBT’s NBA Draft Expert  Ed Isaacson of Rotoworld and NBADraftBlog broke down Jone’s game for us.

A few positives stand out for Jones. First, he has a very good understanding of the pick-and-roll game already for his age; he makes good, quick reads and he’s a strong, sometimes creative passer. Also, he makes good decisions with the ball, though he can have some problems being pressured or against guards with some length. Jones has shown ability to knock down open jumpers, and he can make defenders pay if they try to go under a screen against him, though he needs to be more consistent. Jones is solid in transition, even though he doesn’t have great speed/acceleration, relying on ballhandling/smarts to keep defenders off-balance. He does have some problems getting to the rim, and if he does, he can some problems scoring against long-defenders. Jones does thrive on the big moment, as shown in the NCAA Tournament, and he wants the ball in his hands when a game is on the line. 

Defensively, Jones had a lot of trouble defending on the perimeter in his one year of college, and things will probably get worse for him before they get better going against NBA speed. He doesn’t have very good size, and can be slow to react, but he has good awareness and will try to make plays.
I think Jones does have a future in the NBA, but it’s likely has a backup, and even then, it may be a couple of years for him to be ready to go up against NBA guards. Mentally, he has what it takes, but the physical part may give him issues. He is the kind of guard that coaches will like having, and will eventually feel comfortable giving him control for stretches of a game. I think he would be a safe risk in the late 1st round, hopefully with a team that can give him time to develop.