Why Tre Jones Should Interest the Knicks
My 2020 NBA Draft Profiles:
I spent the night of Thursday, December 20, 2018, at Madison Square Garden with a few of my friends. No, not watching the Knicks - but rather, a basketball game that brought a level of excitement to MSG I hadn't felt there in years. The reason for that? Well, there were multiple. Jarrett Culver, Tre Jones, Cam Reddish, RJ Barrett, and (most notably) Zion Williamson were in town for the Ameritas Insurance Classic: Texas Tech vs. Duke.
The game, which came during Tre Jones's freshman season as a Blue Devil, taught me more about Jones as a player than it did any of the "bigger names" in attendance that night. Jarrett Culver finished with 25 points, Zion Williamson with 17, Barrett with 16, and Reddish with just 8; Tre Jones scored only 13 points and took 15 shot attempts to do so, but his impact on the game was felt just as much as a certain left-handed dunk specialist - the fan favorite that night.
Despite the poor shooting night, Jones tallied up 5 rebounds (1 offensive), 5 assists (with just 1 turnover), and six steals. My friend's father, who took us all to the game that night, had just one comment about the game in general - which was that, "Duke would've gotten destroyed without that little #3 kid. Crazy game." Yes, Jones took and missed more than his fair share of shots - but the overall impact he left on the game is a large reason why Duke was able to emerge victorious that night.
He may be only 6'3" and 185 pounds, but Jones was nothing short of the absolute engine of his team in both of his years playing for the squad from Durham, NC. Averaging 16.2 points and 6.4 assists in his sophomore season, Jones demonstrated his ability to be his team's "floor general" - which by definition, is a point guard (or other player) who provides leadership by running the offense.
Jones is a pragmatic playmaker both in pick-and-roll and transition scenarios who keeps both his turnovers (2.6/game) and three-point attempts (3.7/game his freshman year; 2.9/game the year after) low, whether it's for better or for worse. He certainly improved his three-point shooting from year one to two, but the low volume shows he has a bit of work to go before he can impact a game with his shooting in the ways that smaller point guards such as Devonte' Graham and Kemba Walker can. Despite the relatively unproven shooting ability, Jones still knows how to make the right pass and find/keep teammates involved.
There is certainly work to be done in the "finishing" department, as Jones' lack of athletic burst and leaping ability requires him to have a more developed skillset when trying to finish around the rim. Another area in Jones's offensive game that could use some touching up is his improvisation skills; Jones excels at playing within his offense but has trouble recovering when extra defensive pressure is applied, or a nifty move/pass/both is/are needed.
I have several point guards ahead of Jones on both my big board and Knicks draft board - and understand that the Knicks are in desperate need of a PG - but also believe in selecting the best player available with your lottery pick, which is a line of thinking I've shared numerous times at the end of my prospect breakdowns. If that "best player available" in the lottery ends up being someone like Deni Avdija or Isaac Okoro, some of the draft's best wing prospects, the Knicks should absolutely be interested in utilizing their two picks (27th, 38th) and potentially another small asset to move up and select Tre Jones, depending on if/how far he falls in the draft.
Jones would be incredibly comfortable running whatever offense is installed by the Knicks' next head coach, even if his offensive abilities don't extend far beyond that. On defense, you'd be drafting a good defender both on and off the ball, which would benefit any team in practice; Jones is communicative, disruptive, and impactful on that end of the floor. I like his game overall, despite not viewing him as a lottery selection, and think whatever team ends up drafting Jones won't regret their choice - unless they pass on a far better prospect, of course.