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Keeping up with the Jones brothers

Tre followed in the footsteps of his older brother Tyus and left a lasting legacy at Duke.
Tre followed in the footsteps of his older brother Tyus and left a lasting legacy at Duke.

Nearly four months have passed since Tre Jones last donned a Blue Devil jersey. 

The sophomore captain walked away from Durham with a victory against Duke’s arch-rival North Carolina. The point guard spearheaded the Blue Devils one last time with 21 points and 11 assists, adding another significant blow to the moribund season of the Tar Heels. 

Now that his college career is said and done and his last outing in front of the Cameron Crazies seems light years in the past, we can finally closely examine a comparison that has followed Tre Jones since the beginning of his hoop journey: him and his older brother, Tyus. 

This article delves into the Jones brothers in three parts: their overall performances at Duke and the accolades they garnered, their stat lines and styles of play and their prospect entering the NBA draft.

Career overview and accolades

Both Jones brothers arrived on campus among a group of extremely talented freshmen. Tyus had Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen while Tre was the trusted sidekick for three top-10 draft picks. 

In Tyus' lone season, he formed a dynamic backcourt duo with Quinn Cook. Both of them were adept ball handlers and facilitators who could also get a bucket on their own. On a team that featured four double-digit scorers, Tyus wasn’t pressured to carry the offense on his back, but he always delivered in big moments. Some of his best performances came in games against North Carolina, Virginia and eventually Wisconsin in the national championship game. The older brother claimed a spot on the ACC All-Freshman team and was one of the only two freshmen in the past decade to be named Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA tournament. 

Tre took on a more reserved role his first year, gradually developing the reputation as a low error point guard who was poised to make accurate reads on both ends of the floor. He flashed out some previews of his sophomore self in the ACC tournament where he tallied double-digit points in the last three games, including an efficient night against Florida State that secured Duke the title and himself a place on the All-Tournament Second Team. 

Coming back from a devastating Elite Eight exit against Michigan State, Tre upgraded his skillset and emerged as the unquestionable leader of the squad. While continuing to intimidate opposing guards with suffocating on-ball defense, the second year point guard showcased huge progress in creating offense for himself. By far the most used player on the team, Tre was second in points per game, tied for third in rebounds per game and led the assist column. His epic performance at Chapel Hill will forever be among the fondest memories of the Crazies. The younger brother became the second player in conference history after Malcolm Brogdon to take away both the ACC Player of the Year and the ACC Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season.

Numbers and Styles

Tyus Jones: 11.8 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 41.7 FG%, 37.9 3P%

Tre Jones:  12.4 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 41.9 FG%, 31.3 3P% 

The career average of Tre Jones across the board looks like a duplicate of his brother’s stat line. This doesn't come as a total surprise given the similarities between their games and the fact that Tre played alongside Tyus from an early age. 

The Jones brothers are elite in running the offense while taking care of the ball. Tre was third in the ACC this season in terms of assist to turnover ratio, while Tyus’ 2.86-to-1 ratio during the championship campaign was even better. One of the foundational skill sets that differentiate point guards is the ability to execute plays when the bigs set screens for them. Tyus was an unignorable threat in this kind of situation because he could either link up with the roller or pull a jumper when the defense sagged. Tre’s first year was unimpressive in this regard, but he might have surpassed his brother in his sophomore season. In addition to feeding Vernon Carey Jr. comfortably on the roll and finding his own points, the second year captain also delivered some pick and pop plays with Matthew Hurt

The incisive judgment on the court enabled them to dissect the opposition in a half court setting, but it was more lethal in transition. This season, Tre dished out 1.9 assists per game in transition, which put him top 10 nationally in that category. Tyus also had that awareness on the run as he was ranked 8th in terms of points produced on the break in the 2014-15 season

Another feature that the brothers shared was their driving and finishing, which they applied mostly in transition. Both were unafraid to initiate contact against bigger defenders. The nuance lies in that Tyus was more inclined to use a change of pace to immobilize the defense while Tre preferred to create separation with his body.

Above all the similarities in styles, being clutch is an inborn gene for the "Stones" brothers. The bigger the stage, the brighter they shined. They were not afraid to step up and took shots that could decide the game and more often than not, those gutsy attempts found the bottom of the net. 

Now the difference. One major thing that made Tre look more old-school than Tyus on the offensive end was his shot selection. Throughout his Duke career, Tre took about 30 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, while almost 38.3 percent of Tyus’ shots were from 3-point range. The younger brother had a tendency to opt for midrange jumpers instead of triples even though he did expand his range in different circumstances during his second year. Despite the improvement Tre had in between his two seasons, Tyus still looked more confident and fluid in getting shots up from distance. A direct consequence of Tyus’ superior shooting and more efficient shot selection was the difference in the true shooting percentage. Tyus’ figure was an elite 57.5%, while Tre’s 50.7% was merely satisfactory.

On the defensive end, Tre was undoubtedly the better of the two, partly due to his larger build. He stands two inches taller than his older brother and was physically superior than his matchups most of the time. Tre had an average defensive rating of 95.7 per 100 possessions thanks to his relentless on-ball defense. While Tyus’ overall defensive contribution was at best average, he made up for his lack of size with agility and judgment. He was a decent pass interceptor and tallied 1.5 steals per game in college. 

Moving forward

Tyus Jones was drafted by his home state Timberwolves with the 24th pick in the 2015 draft. He has now established himself as a solid backup point guard in the league. As in college, Tyus is a reliable option who doesn’t make many mistakes. After five seasons in the NBA, it looks like his shooting from beyond the arc has finally come around this year with the Grizzlies. 

His younger brother is navigating through probably the most bizarre draft process in history due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. We are still not sure if there’s going to be an in-person draft combine with the date of the draft currently slated on Oct. 16. Some draft boards have Tre Jones in the early second round, while Gary Parrish of CBS sports ranked him 22nd in his latest big board. With a lack of in-person evaluations, there’s a lot more uncertainty for this class of prospects.

Despite his deficiency in shooting, Tre might have a higher ceiling in the NBA because of the tenacious defense and bigger build than his older brother. If Tre Jones keeps on progressing like he did in college, he might just be good enough to earn a starting point guard role in the league one day.

As for now when nothing much seems to be clear about the future, we can look back and say that Duke was fortunate to have the brothers from Apple Valley, Minn., to run the point for three memorable years.

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