NBA Draft: Tyus Jones ready to show off the total package


NBA Draft: Tyus Jones ready to show off the total package

With freshmen Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow struggling through foul trouble and off-shooting nights in last season's National Championship, Duke needed a spark down the stretch.

Fellow five-star freshman Grayson Allen helped the Blue Devils erase a nine-point Wisconsin lead with eight straight points for his team that cut the deficit to four at the under-12 TV timeout. That's when head coach Mike Krzyzewski subbed in Tyus Jones, who had been limited to four first-half points against Wisconsin's lengthy defense.

Jones had tallied six early points in the second half, but his historic evening was just getting started. The freshman scored 13 of Duke's final 21 points on 4-for-6 shooting, including a a 3-pointer with 4 minutes to play that put Duke ahead for good, and another triple with 90 seconds remaining that sealed Duke's fifth NCAA title.

[MORE: NBA Draft Profile - Duke PG Tyus Jones]

Jones, the smallest starter in the game at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, played biggest when his young Duke team needed him, helping him earn Most Outstanding Player honors for the Final Four. Two days earlier, in a blowout victory over Michigan State, he tallied a team-high four assists while Okafor, Winslow and senior Quinn Cook took care of the heavy-lifting scoring duties.

That three-day span cemented Jones' spot in Duke lore, and was a perfect example of the complete point guard Jones had been all season for the Blue Devils.

"A complete point guard, a pure point guard," Jones responded at last month's NBA Draft Combine when asked what about his best traits. "Someone who is a leader and is a winner. Someone who can make their teammates better, who can set up their teammates and most importantly, win."

[MORE: 2015 NBA Draft - Analyzing the Top 5 point guards]

In his lone season with the Blue Devils Jones, the No. 7 recruit in the country who came to Durham as a package deal with the Chicago native Okafor, averaged 11.8 points on 42 percent shooting and was second in the ACC with 5.8 assists per game. He was a terror in transition, was the floor general for the country's 3rd ranked offense and saved some of his best individual performances for primetime, most notably in two wins against rival North Carolina; he averaged 23 points and 7.5 assists and sent the first game to overtime with a last-second layup.

It's why, despite his sub-par measurables and clear deficiencies on the defensive end, he'll hear his name called in the first round of the NBA Draft on June 25. Jones is experienced for being just 19 years old, having five seasons of high school basketball under his belt (he played with his brother on the high school team as an 8th grader), in addition to spending time with USA Basketball as well as playing under a spotlight all year with the Blue Devils.

He proved to be a capable 3-point shooter, making 1.2 triples per game at a 38 percent clip, and was 17th in the country in free-throw percentage (88.4 percent). He struggled at times finishing at the rim, though he won't be asked to play the same style in the NBA as he did with the Blue Devils.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Past the Combine numbers, his averages and postseason accolades - he was named to the All-ACC Third Team - Jones is simply a winner. Pardon the cliche, but even playing for a perennial powerhouse with the country's best crop of freshmen and a Hall of Fame head coach, Jones made the plays necessary for the Blue Devils to win 35 games and an NCAA title.

NBA teams looking for smart decision makers - his assist-to-turnover ratio was third in the ACC, 17th in the country and second among freshmen - with the ability to make shots on a second unit will love what Jones brings to the table. He's not the potential franchise-altering prospect that D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay are, he doesn't have the length of a Jerian Grant or the defensive upside of a Cameron Payne, but Jones is banking on his ability to win and step up in clutch situations to carry him at the next level.

"You don’t know who’s going to draft you, what’s the situation with that team or that roster, so you just got to be ready for any circumstance, you have to be ready to go in and be a backup, you have to be ready to be a starter," he said. "You’ve just got to be ready, so I will be."

Bulls take tunnel vision approach to Charlotte for opener vs. Hornets

USA Today

Bulls take tunnel vision approach to Charlotte for opener vs. Hornets

The significance of his first opening night as head coach? Jim Boylen wasn’t biting.

Opening with four of five games against teams that didn’t make last season’s playoffs, including Wednesday night in Charlotte, N.C.? Boylen steered clear of that.

Addressing the goal stated on media day to make the playoffs? Lauri Markkanen added a qualifier.

“No promises,” he said. “But that’s the goal, for sure.”

The Bulls officially closed training camp Tuesday with a one-game-at-a-time and bunker mentality that would make any fan of clichés proud. They’re focused on the Hornets---and nothing of greater significance for now.

“We don’t talk about playoff team, non-playoff team. We’re talking about Charlotte,” Boylen said. “We’re going to play as hard as we can against Charlotte. That’s what we can control. And then we’ll move on.”

Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. are scheduled to start. Chandler Hutchison, who increased his on-court work but has yet to practice because of a hamstring issue, is the only injured player. Boylen said he’d announce his other inactive player besides Hutchison Wednesday.

“I just want to help the team,” Boylen said, elaborating on the significance of his first opening night as head coach. “As a head coach, sometimes you help them and sometimes you let them help themselves. I want to be there for them, support them. Hopefully we honor our principles. We do our basics better, the best we can, and see what happens.”

Boylen wouldn’t touch the subject. But even with all four games against last season’s non-playoff teams coming on the road, getting off to a fast start is essential.

Beyond the fact it will continue the good vibes that began with a widely praised offseason and through voluntary September workouts, the Bulls are relatively healthy. And the close to their schedule offers some brutal tests, so building a cushion early would bolster playoff talk.

“That’s what we’re trying to do---start off strong,” Markkanen said. “That sets the pace for the rest of the year. We’re going one game at a time, but it’s really important for us to get these.”

The Bulls visit Memphis to face a rebuilding Grizzlies team and No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant on Friday. They will navigate the two-game trip following a preseason in which they played at a faster pace than last season and averaged 39.4 3-pointers per game. That ranked ninth in the league after finishing 27th with just 25.9 attempts last season.

“I think we get a ton of open looks,” Markkanen said. “I’ve had good looks and my teammates have as well. We’re playing unselfish basketball, sharing the ball, making the extra pass. I think it’s going to help us.”

Despite all the optimism and addition of 12-year veteran Thad Young, the Bulls remain young, the league’s second-youngest team behind the Suns. Questions about depth and defensive efficiency are legitimate.

The tests start for real Wednesday.

“I’ve seen a group of guys that want to do the right things,” Boylen said. “It’s a high character group. It’s a willing group. Our care factor is high and I expect for us to care for each other, play for each other, sacrifice for each other. I think we’ll do that well.” 

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Bulls sign guard Max Strus to a two-way contract

USA Today

Bulls sign guard Max Strus to a two-way contract

The Bulls announced today they have signed guard Max Strus to a two-way contract. Strus went undrafted during the 2019 NBA Draft before being signed by the Boston Celtics during preseason. He played in four preseason games for the Celtics, averaging 5.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists.

The Celtics waived Strus to make way with athletic wing Javonte Green on the final roster.

Max Strus is a Chicagoland native, growing in Hickory Hills and attending Amos Alonzo Stagg High School. Strus played college basketball at Lewis University in Romeoville before playing for the DePaul Blue Demons.

Standing at six-foot-five and 215 pounds, Strus was named to the All Big-East Second Team after averaging 20.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 35 games during his senior 2018-19 season. As a senior he played 29-straight games with double-figure scoring and set DePaul season records with 113 3-pointers and 311 3-point attempts. His career scoring average of 18.6 points per game with the fourth best in DePaul history.

We’re excited to have Strus back in Chicago and ready to see what he brings to the Bulls when their season starts tomorrow against Charlotte.

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