Bulls Considered Landing Spot for Former $26M Free Agent PG

Chicago Bulls

Getty Tyus Jones #21 of the Memphis Grizzlies dribbles the ball

The Chicago Bulls could be in the market for one of the top point guards in free agency in Tyus Jones. This is as they deal with the growing concern over Lonzo Ball’s knee which has not responded well to rehabilitation efforts.

Ball only appeared in 35 games this past season with none coming after January 14. The Bulls’ subsequent slide highlights his impact just as much as his teammates’ words.

That injury worry is on top of Zach LaVine’s offseason knee procedure and unrestricted free agency. The rumor mill has been non-stop with hypothetical sign-and-trade proposals that illustrate just how highly thought of LaVine is around the league.

Jones could be a nice supplement to Ball and, if LaVine were to leave, help a shift in direction.

Marriage of Convenience

This suggestion is more of a mention and comes courtesy of Bleacher Report’s Jake Rill and might be a bit of a surprise to some. After all, the Bulls spent $117 million on Ball and Alex Caruso last summer and drafted Ayo Dosunmu with the 38th overall pick.

Ball’s injury casts doubt for now about his durability, though, while LaVine will likewise be undergoing the second known procedure on his knee. Even when both are healthy, their minutes have to be a factor.

Jones is coming off a career year scoring the ball, averaging 8.7 points per game. He was particularly effective from beyond the arc knocking down a career-high 39% of his looks. There was some thought that he could pursue a starting role somewhere as the second-best pure point guard behind only Jalen Brunson who is expected to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks.

However, there are not many openings for starting point guards despite the ample need for backups at the position. The competition for his services outside of Memphis should not automatically rule out the Bulls.

It could get expensive, though.

The Athletics Fred Katz thinks that he could get more than the mid-level exemption from the Grizzlies while Memphis Commercial Appeal’s Damichael Cole writes that the bidding could price him out of even their comfort level.

Minny to Memphis to…

Jones was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 24th overall pick in 2015. He was traded on draft night to the Minnesota Timberwolves where he spent the first four seasons of his career. He signed a four-year, $26 million offer sheet with the Grizzlies as a restricted free agent in 2019 that the Timberwolves did not match.

In the time since then, Jones has developed into one of the NBA’s best backup point guards, capitalizing on his playmaking and ability to find the soft spot in the defense, as For the Win’s Bryan Kalbrosky explained.

His court vision and ball control when in the open court are both especially insane. According to Synergy, Jones recorded 71 assists and just 2 turnovers in transition during the regular season…no player finished possessions on runners more often than Jones.

Jones averaged 16.1 points and 6.9 assists with Morant active compared to 20.9 points and 10.7 assists when the Grizzlies star was out showing he could help navigate a squad.

But even Jones admitted via Cole that, while he believes himself to be a starter, it is not everything.

“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.”

That keeps the Bulls in play.

Position of Need

Given the growing injury concerns Jones could lowkey be a priority for the Bulls who will have their mid-level exception worth $10.3 million. We have seen what this team looks like without competent lead guard play and it is not pretty.

The Bulls’ net rating drops 2.9 points going from the 56th percentile with Ball and LaVine on the floor to the 41st percentile without them, per Cleaning the Glass.

Jones’ plus-3.4 efficiency differential ranked fourth on the Grizzlies while he took their net rating from the 77th percentile to the 91st percentile.

As Riller points out, how aggressively the Bulls pursue Jones (if they do at all) will come down to Ball’s health. Five months away from the season, it is not an immediate concern. But that could quickly change as we get closer and then deep into the summer.

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