During a losing season, it becomes common to start pointing fingers at who’s to blame. For the last five seasons, Ricky Rubio has had a lot of fingers pointed at him. He is a solid player, and does a great job facilitating games, but his offensive struggles have crippled the team.
The Timberwolves front office must have been feeling the pressure because this off-season they drafted point guard Kris Dunn out of Providence. Coming out of college, draft experts praised his explosiveness on both ends of the ball. That led to trade rumors for Rubio. Wolves’ fans yearned for the high draft pick to give them a new start, but the front office decided to keep the veteran.
Now the season is 17 games in, and neither one of them are fan favorites. They are getting plenty of fingers pointed their way due to their lack of production. According to social media trends, the new fan favorite point guard is none other than, hometown hero, point guard Tyus Jones.
Jones has only played nine of the games so far. The other games were no minutes or garbage time. Five of the nine games he backed up Dunn while Rubio was hurt. The other four games Rubio and Dunn were healthy, and he came in to give some relief. In those nine contests, he has averaged; 5.4 points, 4.0 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 1.4 steals, .400 field goal percentage, .389 three-point percentage, and 19.8 minutes a game.
It would be absurd to say that Jones SHOULD be starting over Rubio at this point. It would also be absurd to say that Jones SHOULD NOT be playing over Dunn. When coach Thibodeau has chosen to give him playing time, he has produced. Jones has earned every minute this season, while Dunn was almost given the point guard role because of where he was drafted.
So far this season in a backup role, Dunn has not played as well as the team hoped. There was preseason talk of him potentially winning the Rookie of the Year award once he took over for Rubio, that rumor is long gone. In 17 games he has averaged; 3.5 points, 2.6 assists, 2.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals, .317 field goal percentage, 33.3 three-point percentage, and 18.7 minutes a game. His stat line is awful for someone that is supposed to be “taking over” for Rubio.
Another key statistic that not everyone thinks of is the plus/minus; this one is a key argument for Jones playing over Dunn. Going off of the nine games that were talked about earlier, the comparison is not even close. Jones’ +/- has been 10, 0, -1, 1, 19, 5, 22, 3, and -9. He has had a positive impact each game except for two. Dunn’s +/- has been 26, -3, -23, -10, -3, 0, -5, -2, and -3. In all those games the team has been outscored while he has been on the court, except for one.
In the last three contests when the Wolves needed a spark, Jones has been the go-to guy. His stat line might not always show it, but he does a great job of getting everyone involved and making smart plays.
Wolves’ fans are begging Thibodeau to make the change. Dunn has had his chance to prove he can be a reliable back-up, but he has not come through. Jones has shown that he can be called upon to come in and produce. A D-league stint would be perfect for the rookie point guard. It is a huge confidence booster and a big reality check for some players.
Jones and Shabazz Muhammad were sent down to the D-league in their rookie years and they tore it up. When Jones was there, he averaged 24.7 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 35.2 minutes a game. The Wolves had no choice but to bring the players back up, and once they were called up, it made a difference.
No one can say Dunn is a bust. It has only been 17 games, but he does need some fine tuning. Until he fixes some nuts and bolts, the backup role should go to Jones.
Coach Thibodeau, Wolves fans have tried to be patient, but the time has come. Where a player was drafted does not give them the right to continue to play over another player. The hometown hero deserves the chance to show what he has.
Jake Petersen is a contributor to Howlin’ T-Wolf. Follow him on Twitter: @jakepetey22.