Lakers Urged to Pursue Ja Morant’s Backup in Free Agency

LeBron James and Ja Morant

Getty LeBron James and Ja Morant

The Los Angeles Lakers are being urged to pursue Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant’s backup in free agency this summer.

In a June 9 column, Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley named Tyus Jones as a player the Lakers should target this offseason. The Duke product becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

“For a point guard to play in L.A., that player must be trustworthy enough to justify taking the ball out of LeBron’s hands,” Buckley wrote. “Tyus Jones has earned that level of trust with the astronomic gap between his assists (career 3.7 per game) and his turnovers (0.7). The ball control is what first gets him noticed, though that alone shouldn’t tempt teams into overpaying him. The rest of his subtly impressive stats don’t appear like bank-breakers, either.”

Jones appeared in 73 games for the Grizzlies in 2021-22. He averaged 8.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists while shooting 45.1% from the field, 39.0% from beyond the arc and 81.8% from the free-throw line.


Buckley: Lakers Should Be Drawn to Jones

Jones started 23 games for the Grizzlies in 2021-22. He averaged 12.7 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6.6 assists and had 151 assists and only 23 turnovers when he started in place of Morant, who missed 25 games due to an injury.

“Since he has yet to average even 23 minutes in a season, no part of his stat sheet jumps off the page, but the Lakers should still be drawn to his numbers,” Buckley wrote about Jones. “He just hit a slew of personal bests this past season (including 8.7 points and 39 percent three-point shooting), and if L.A. thinks his game is still growing, it can pay for his production now and count any potential he realizes as profit.”

Jones made $7.6 million in 2021-22. He signed a three-year, $26.4 million offer sheet with the Grizzlies in the summer of 2019 and the Minnesota Timberwolves chose not to match the contract. The 26-year-old has career averages of 6.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 455 games with the Timberwolves and Grizzlies.


Jones Would Fit Well Next to LeBron James & Anthony Davis

Jones projects to fit well next to Lakers superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis since he can shoot from the perimeter. The Minnesota native is a career 35.2% shooter from beyond the arc and shot a career-high 39.0% from deep in 2021-22.

Russell Westbrook played 2,678 minutes for the Lakers in 2021-22 and hit only 79 3-pointers. Jones, who played 1,549 minutes for the Grizzlies, made 80 3-pointers.

Westbrook wasn’t a good fit next to James and Davis since he struggled to shoot the ball. The one-time MVP shot 29.8% from beyond the arc and his effective field goal percentage of 47.6% was sixth-worst in the NBA.

Unlike Westbrook, Jones takes care of the ball. He only had 46 turnovers in 2021-22. Westbrook committed 295 turnovers, which was second in the NBA. The nine-time All-Star had 10 turnovers in an October game against his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers lost that contest by a final score of 123-115.

Westbrook has a player option worth $47 million for next season and he’s widely expected to pick it up. Jones, who averaged 9.2 points and 4.5 assists in the 2022 playoffs, would likely be Westbrook’s backup if he signed with the Lakers.

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