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ESPN’s Lowe: Suns have asked T-Wolves about PG Tyus Jones

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones (1) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, April 5, 2018, in Denver. The Nuggets won 100-96. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

As the Minnesota Timberwolves reportedly rebuff trade interest in star wing Jimmy Butler, the Phoenix Suns might have their sights set on another of coach and president of basketball ops Tom Thibodeau’s players.

According to sources of ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Suns have asked the T-Wolves about backup point guard Tyus Jones, a two-way contributor who reportedly considered asking for a trade last year.

Phoenix, of course, currently has four point guards on the roster. G League-raised Shaq Harrison and Isaiah Canaan, plus rookies Elie Okobo and De’Anthony Melton give the Suns untested options, a reason the team has also inquired about landing established NBA point guards such as Patrick Beverley, Cory Joseph and Spencer Dinwiddie. Jones arguably fits in the same category as those three veterans.

A potential trade will matter upon whether Minnesota agrees with that assessment.

The 22-year-old enters his fourth season in the NBA behind T-Wolves starter Jeff Teague and re-signed former MVP Derrick Rose, a Thibodeau favorite. Rose, however, could play more shooting guard with the departure of Jamal Crawford, opening a bigger role for Jones.

When Minnesota was healthy last season, extensive playing time was hard to come by for Jones.

But when Jones did play last year — he averaged 17.9 minutes per game and appeared in all 82 outings — he was one of the T-Wolves’ best players. His on-court/off-court rating differential came in fourth of the team’s regulars, behind Karl-Anthony Towns, Butler and Taj Gibson.

Jones’ impact is less apparent in the box score, where he averaged just 5.1 points, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game. The 6-foot-2, 184-pound product from Duke, however, was widely efficient as an offensive player and a savvy defender despite his average athleticism.

His usage rate of 12.7 indicates he would be a true offensive initiator. His true shooting percentage of 57.2 — it accounts for free throws and three-pointers — was partly due to his 88 percent shooting from the foul stripe, 68 percent shooting at the rim and 46 percent shooting between 16 feet out and the three-point line.

One could wonder if his mid-range game might regress and if his 35 percent three-point shooting might improve, but point is he flashed enough over a full season to be a competent offensive threat who would rather keep the offense moving than hunt down his own attempts.

Consider his youth, and getting a look at him for a full season before he becomes a restricted free agent could turn into a coup for the Suns, especially if they can convince Thibodeau to give him up at a reasonable cost.

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