Tre Jones: Role
Solid passer with great vision and soft touch
Elite-level basketball IQ
Tenacious and destructive on-ball defender
Excellent defensive anticipation
Generates numerous defensive impact plays
Limited physical tools, not an explosive athlete
Shaky shooter thus far
Little production off dribble or movement
Not a plus rebounder from the point guard position
Offensive role at Duke
Tre Jones is the primary initiator of the offense for Duke, although if Cam Reddish or R.J. Barrett get a rebound they will sometimes bring the ball up. Jones will often dictate pace, pushing if he senses an advantage or slowing it down to allow opportunities to develop. He does not pound the ball, moving the ball to players with an advantage to let them attack. He rarely takes early shots or attacks a set defense, but rather works on and off-ball to find openings for himself and others. He will take an open catch-and-shoot jumper in the flow of the offense, but is more comfortable attacking a closeout or moving the ball to the next open shooter. When he does shoot any disruption by the defense often results in a miss, and he doesn’t hit open shots with consistency. His passing is intuitive and on-target, although he lacks the physical skills to be an elite playmaker.
Offensive role projection -
At the next level Jones’ role will be simple, whether he hits his ceiling or not. As a baseline Jones has the ability to bring the ball up the court and initiate the offense. His instincts and understanding of the floor will let him find open teammates and players with mismatches, and he plays with a good motor to relocate off-ball. To become a positive offensive player he will need to develop his outside shot, which seems a reasonable outcome but is by no means guaranteed. Currently his shot is inconsistent at best, but if he can approach league-average he will be able to start a play and then relocate to an open pocket of space. When a defender closes out he can drive into the defense and unleash his soft floater.
Defensive role at Duke
Jones’ defensive role at Duke is something akin to a mirror, reflecting a opponent’s actions right back at them. He picks up his man and never leaves them, using his marvelous combination of strength, positioning, anticipation, and fast hands to terrorize opposing ball-handlers. Duke has at times flashed a full-court press and he has wreaked havoc at the point of attack. When a ball-handler does make it across half-court they are often forced to give up the ball or stop their dribble, and he often causes a secondary ball-handler to run the play because his man is unable to. His anticipation and motor allow him to fight over screens and stay glued to his man. He often seems to know what his mark is thinking before they do, moving to deny them before they move a muscle in that direction. Off-ball he can be a vicious ball-denier, and even fights on switches gamely, fronting in the post to deny the entry pass. He can follow his mark around screens and through traffic. He does tend to drift towards the play when guarding on the perimeter, but that is literally the only sign that he is a freshman out on the court. He has some of the best defensive anticipation of any freshman in recent (or not-so-recent) college basketball history.
Defensive role projection -
This is where Jones will butter his bread, stepping in immediately as a high-level guard defender in the NBA. His anticipation is something truly special and will translate immediately even with the increased speed of the NBA game. His motor runs continuously on defense and he will be able to guard NBA point guards in such a way that drives them insane. Larger guards may give him problems, and he will be in more trouble on switches than he has been in college. His hands should continue to be an asset in the NBA as well, tipping or stripping the ball whether he is on or off-ball. He should be able to add even more strength to help him stand up even with his limited size, but will always be at a disadvantage against most NBA players physically.
Why Jones will earn minutes as a rookie
On most teams it seems unlikely Jones will step in as the starter at point guard, although it’s possible the right situation could open up for him. Coming in off the bench he can step on the court and immediately change the tenor of a game, guarding the opposing ball-handler and harrying him into mistakes and transition opportunities going the other way. Especially against second-unit guards he should be able to make impact plays defensively from day one. Offensively he can set up the offense and will get up-to-speed on the NBA game faster than most. With the increased spacing in the NBA the passing lanes may be just a little bit larger, and he will exploit those to set up his teammates for success.
Why Jones’ minutes may be limited as a rookie
Offensively Jones has a lot of weaknesses when compared to most NBA point guards. While his basketball IQ and passing are strengths he will struggle to score from day one and for quite a while in the NBA. He is not exceptionally tall nor long, and his athleticism is below average for the next level. His shot is inconsistent at best and relatively worthless at worst, and he will need to work hard to improve his accuracy once in the league. Until he can hit respectably from outside many NBA coaches will find it hard to play him even with the defensive tenacity. With his drive and feel for the game it’s unlikely he’ll be marginalized for long, but at first his weaknesses may hold him back.