Tyus Jones' future may be out of the Memphis Grizzlies' hands. Here's why

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·4 min read
May 11, 2022; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones (21) brings the ball up court against the Golden State Warriors during game five of the second round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at FedExForum.
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Tyus Jones was one of the NBA’s best backup point guards this season, but don’t call him that.

That’s not how he views himself. Jones sees himself as a starting point guard, and now that he'll be a free agent in the summer, the Memphis Grizzlies have to wonder how that weighs into his decision making for the future. .

“I would like to be a starter in this league, obviously," Jones said. “I think any player you ask in this league would say that. I’d be lying if I said no. At the same time, that’s not the end all, be all.”

Grizzlies star Ja Morant missed 25 games, and Jones was there to keep the Memphis rolling each time he went out. Memphis went 19-4 in the regular season with Jones as the starter. The sidebar to that was Jones showing his value during a contract year at arguably the NBA’s most important position.

Jones will have suitors. If being a starting point guard is his goal, there may be little the Grizzlies can do. Morant is expected to sign a massive long-term extension this summer. Lineups with Morant and Jones were flashed throughout the season, but that is hard to see on a consistent basis because of the emergence of Grizzlies wing players Desmond Bane and Ziaire Williams.

“You always strive for more, but at the same time with that being said, I’ve always viewed myself as a starter, even coming off the bench,” Jones said. “A lot of times being called one of the best backups in the league, I never called myself that. I always just viewed that I was just a starter that’s coming of the bench. That’s always been my mindset.”

Jones called this the most fun season he’s had in his seven-year NBA career. In the last four seasons, he has led the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio. He averaged 8.7 points and 4.4 assists in 21.2 minutes this season. In games he started, Jones averaged 12.7 points and 6.6 assists.

One reason Jones will be coveted is because of his career-high shooting numbers. He shot 32% on 3-pointers last season. He said that shooting better was at the top of his improvement list, then he became one of the Grizzlies' most reliable shooters at 39% on 3-pointers.

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Jones is one of the many examples of Grizzlies players who improved and helped the team catapult to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference without many offseason moves.

“Tyus has always been kind of like a cultural, foundational type piece for the group,” Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman said.

As for future talks, Kleiman feels positive about the work Jones, Kyle Anderson and Jarrett Culver put in in Memphis. The Grizzlies have three draft picks and cap space to work with, so it’s highly unlikely all three players will be back.

“I don’t wanna speculate on what may or may not happen, specifics of free agency, but I did feel strongly about what they all brought to the table and what they could potentially continue to,” Kleiman said.

Of those three, Jones feels like the most important. There’s already rumored interest from the New York Knicks in Jones.

Kleiman said Sunday the Grizzlies have the support of owner Robert Pera and will have no problem keeping and paying players they want to retain. Jones will be the first test.

Derrick Rose ($14.5 million) and Jordan Clarkson ($13.3 million) have the highest 2022 cap hits for backup point guards. Jones made $8.4 million this season. Morant will make $12.1 million in the final year of his rookie deal.

Jones should get a bump from his $8.4 million salary, and paying two point guards is not common in the NBA. In the end, Memphis can match dollars with any team due to having Jones’ bird rights, allowing them to incentivize Jones staying in Memphis, but situation and circumstance will matter, too.

“It’s definitely not going to be an easy decision by any means,” Jones said. “I don’t have my mind made up one way or another.”

Contact Damichael Cole at damichael.cole@commercialappeal.com and on Twitter @damichaelc

This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Why Tyus Jones' future may be out of Memphis Grizzlies' hands