The case for and against the Orlando Magic signing Tyus Jones

The Orlando Magic exited their Playoffs likely understanding they need another playmaker and point guard to help ease creation burdens for their two young stars. Would Washington Wizards guard Tyus Jones fit the bill?
Tyus Jones has been on the Orlando Magic's radar since the trade deadline. With free agency coming up, he remains an interesting prospect for the Magic to fill their point guard needs.
Tyus Jones has been on the Orlando Magic's radar since the trade deadline. With free agency coming up, he remains an interesting prospect for the Magic to fill their point guard needs. / Scott Taetsch/GettyImages

The Orlando Magic exited their playoff series feeling like they were missing something.

Sure, Paolo Banchero turned in a stellar postseason showing, seemingly rising to the level of superstar and confirming his All-Star bona fides on the biggest stage. Franz Wagner acquitted himself well, Game 7 struggles aside. Jalen Suggs proved himself a big-time player, too.

The Orlando Magic had a strong playoff showing in forcing the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games and coming a half away from advancing to the second round. But the Magic still had a sizable gap, and they could see what they needed as the Cavaliers erased their lead and zoomed ahead.

In the end, the biggest need the Magic seemed to be missing from the Playoffs was a table setter and point guard to make life easier for their stars. Orlando did not have spacing from its guards—and Gary Harris' playoff struggles only added to the misery—and could not find someone to create or get the ball to Paolo Banchero or Franz Wagner in spots where they could score more easily.

That is why a lot of the free agent discussion has centered on point guards. Even with the team's extreme shooting need, the Playoffs seemed to show that Banchero operating as the team's point guard has some limits. Even Banchero would agree with that, telling The Washington Post he sees himself more as an offensive hub than a point guard.

It would seem Orlando is going to be hunting for a starting guard to play next to Suggs. And in all likelihood, they are looking for someone who can not only shoot but create a bit for himself.

That kind of table–setter would help everyone in a major way. And finding a point guard to check all the boxes is going to be one of the harder things for the Magic to accomplish.

A lot of Magic fans have put their attention to Tyus Jones. He was a favorite target at the trade deadline, too.

Jones played for the Washington Wizards last year after a long successful stint as a reserve for the Memphis Grizzlies. He stepped up his numbers in the Wizards' high-paced offense, averaging 12.0 points per game, 7.3 assists per game, and 1.0 turnover per game. He added 1.1 steals per game, showing some feistiness defensively despite his lack of size at 6-foot-1.

Jones was an excellent 3-point shooter for the Wizards too, hitting 41.4 percent of his threes and 42.2 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, according to data from Second Spectrum.

The fact Jones was a solid table setter and could rack up stats even on a bad Wizards team is encouraging. Even if they played at the fastest pace in the league, Jones was a solid player and not the reason the Wizards struggled so much. He seemed to fit in.

The high assist total and low turnovers certainly are reasons to have an eye on Jones. The Magic do not need him to be the sole ball-handler. But he seems like someone who can step up and fill this critical role for the Magic.

Jones should be on the radar for several reasons.

The case for signing Tyus Jones

The Orlando Magic need a low-usage point guard who can set others up and score off the ball as a shooter. Offensively, Jones checks all of those boxes, playing a hybrid guard role for both the Memphis Grizzlies and the Washington Wizards in the last several years.

Last year was a breakthrough in the Wizards' high-paced offense, averaging 7.3 assists per game against 1.0 turnovers per game. A player like that who is going to make plays for others and reduce turnovers would be huge for the Magic.

If Orlando showed its inexperience and youth in any aspect of its game last year, it was with turnovers.

The Magic were 26th in the league with a 15.0 percent turnover rate. They had a 15.1 percent turnover rate in the Playoffs. Paolo Banchero's turnovers especially in the Playoffs were a major concern—his 15 in Games 1 and 2 stood out.

If the Magic need to improve in one area as a team, turnovers is it. That is one of the reasons why the team should be hunting a point guard. They just need someone to manage games and value possessions in key spots.

Jones' biggest strength has always been his low turnover numbers. He averaged only 1.0 per game in his first year as a full-time starter last year. That is his career-worst mark. He had an 8.8 percent turnover rate overall last year, his third straight year at lower than 10.0 percent.

That is something that feels permanent from Jones as he moves from a high-end reserve to a starter. He is not going to make mistakes and give possessions away. That is what the Magic would likely want from the table-setter they are hunting.

Jones just seems to make everyone better and set others up. He has been a relatively high assist player for some time.

He averaged 7.3 assists per game last year in increased minutes in his first year as a starter. He also averaged a career-best 9.0 assists per 36 minutes, increasing his assist output as a function of his minutes. He has averaged at least 7.0 assists per 36 minutes in all but two of his nine NBA seasons.

According to data from Basketball-Index, the Wizards scored 20.75 points off Jones assists per 75 possessions, placing him in the 97th percentile. He was in the 88th percentile with a +4.25 role-adjusted assists per 75 possessions—meaning essentially Jones creates a little more than four extra points off assists than you would expect in a player in his role.

The Wizards scored 1.00 points per possession when Jones was the ball-handler in pick-and-rolls, according to data from And that was playing with Daniel Gafford, Kyle Kuzma, and some of the Wizards' hodgepodge of centers.

Jones may be one of the best passers and table-setters in the league. And there is at least a suggestion that he could increase these numbers or at least maintain them when playing alongside smarter players than he was in Washington.

That could be where Jones' 3-point shooting becomes more valuable.

Jones still shot 41.4 percent from three on 4.8 attempts per game. It was his first season shooting better than 40 percent from three, so he may have a regression next year. But Jones shot 39.0 percent and 37.1 percent in his previous two years.

In a more egalitarian offense, Jones could see his spot-up attempts increase—he made 43.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3-pointers last year. Jones made 38.6 percent of his pull-up 3-pointers too, showing some ability to hit off the dribble.

If the Magic can get a little bit of that 3-point shooting, then it would provide a huge boost to the offense. Especially if Jones' passing and possession valuing translate to a new team.

The case against signing Tyus Jones

Tyus Jones' offensive contributions seem too good to be true. He checks so many key boxes for the team from his shooting to his playmaking and assisting. He seems like the perfect kind of point guard.

But things are not always that easy.

To gain all of that, the Magic may have to compromise in two key areas that have been essential to their team building. And the biggest thing the Magic have to assess is whether they can make do with this or scheme around it.

The first thing to say then is Jones is not big. He does not fit the size profile the Magic typically like. At 6-foot-1, 196 pounds, Jones is on the small and stocky side. That is not typically the direction the Magic head when they are looking for new players.

Length and size is not what anyone thinks of when it comes to Jones.

The question then is whether Jones can hang on defensively, especially if that means the Magic are going with a smaller backcourt.

That part is especially hard to judge because the Wizards last year were such a poor defensive team.

Statistically, Jones will get his share of steals. But he is not going to be much of a disruptor as a defender or contesting shots. According to's tracking data, opponents shot 52.9 percent with Jones as the closest defender, 7.0 percentage points better than expected.

As a team, the Wizards had a team-worst 122.5 defensive rating with Jones on the floor (their overall defensive rating was a league-worst 118.9). That should be at least moderately concerning that a bad defensive team was worse with Jones on the floor.

A lot of that can be credited to playing with poor defensive teammates and the Wizards' general defensive indifference. But this pattern follows Jones.

In the 2023 season, while coming off the bench for the Memphis Grizzlies, the Grizzlies had a more respectable 111.6 defensive rating with Jones on the floor compared to a 110.7 defensive rating overall.

That would all suggest Jones is a negative defender, even within good defensive environments. And so the question is about whether he can score enough to make up for these defensive shortcomings. His individual stats suggest so.

But in 2023, the Grizzlies had a 114.7 offensive rating overall and 113.6 with Jones on the floor. Last year with the Wizards, the Wizards had a 110.2 offensive rating overall but only 110.6 with Jones on the floor.

That suggests that Jones, despite his shooting and his passing, does not have a meaningful impact on games. It would suggest he does not make up for whatever he gives away on defense.

And so any thought of signing him has to start with that examination.

Tyus Jones may be an affordable stopgap point guard

The Orlando Magic need a point guard. And this free-agent crop is not going to give them a lot of options for a true point guard. If that is the biggest need the Magic have to fill this offseason, then they are going to have to address it in some way.

Jones checks a lot of boxes on the offensive end but leaves a lot of questions on the defensive end. So much of this offseason for the Magic may come down to the Magic asking themselves how much they can compromise their desire for two-way players and size to improve their frustrating offense.

Jones may end up being a fairly affordable option and give the Magic another big salary to trade down the road when the team is capped out. That might be as valuable as anything else for this team.

Getting a smart table setter who can shoot and will not make mistakes could give the team a proof of concept. Jones will not take shots away from anybody and should make the offense operate a lot easier. He would not upset the apple cart in terms of pecking order for this young team.

Jones is finishing a contract that paid him $14 million after signing a two-year, $29 million in 2022. It is likely Jones would see a small bump in salary into the $17-$20 million range. That is affordable for a solid starting point guard. The Magic would not have to break the bank to bring him in and still leave plenty of cap room to add another free agent and improve the team's depth.

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Jones certainly does not solve every problem for the Magic. He may force the team to ask some questions elsewhere or compromise on some core beliefs. But he would help the team out offensively in a significant way.