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Prospect Arena: Tyus Jones versus Jerian Grant

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It's not Terrence Jones versus Donatas Motiejunas, but it's a topic worth debating.

Long story short, the Rockets need a point guard, and these two are in our draft range in every mock draft. The Rockets have been rumored to be enamored with Tyus Jones, while here at TDS, Jerian Grant has long been an object of desire. I break down the 2 players in detail to find out who is truly worthy of your love.

Physical Profile

Tyus Jones measured in at 6’2" with 6’5" wingspan and a lean 185 pounds. The shoes added almost 2 inches in his measurement, which means he’s probably closer to 6’1 when it’s all said and done. Notable physical comparisons in the NBA are Mike Conley, Chris Paul, Darren Collison, and Trey Burke.

Jerian Grant measured in at 6’4.25" with 6’7.5" wingspan at 198 pounds. Notable physical comparisons in the NBA include Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Rodney Stuckey, and Jrue Holiday.

Size-wise, Jones is just big enough to play PG in the NBA, even as a starter. A few players have found ways to compensate for their smaller stature and average-to-below-average wingspan, however struggles are not uncommon. Grant, on the other hand, is big enough to play both guard positions in the NBA. Although he’s still a bit lacking in both height and length for a full-time 2, his physical tools will be a tremendous asset as a combo guard off the bench.

In term of athleticism, Tyus Jones’ underwhelming athleticism could be a fatal flaw. Jones graded out to be one of the slowest athletes at the combine in both lateral and straight line speed. Speed and quickness are key ingredients in what makes Chris Paul and Mike Conley successful in the NBA. Quickness measurements are slightly more correlative than height to offensive success in the NBA. Few current starting guards in the NBA posted both lane agility slower than 11 seconds and three-quarters court sprint slower than 3.25 seconds, Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry being the 2 most notable exceptions.

To add insult to injury, his max vertical of 10’9.5" puts him in the class of guys like Jimmer Fredette, DJ Augustine, and Ty Lawson. While you can compensate lack of athleticism with size and vice versa, compensating for both requires tremendous skill level.

Grant declined to participate in the athletic portion of the combine, so there are less concrete evidence of his athletic prowess. There are flashes of brilliance like this incredible dunk, but there are also reasons to believe that Grant’s athleticism may only be average based on some of his numbers. Offensive rebounds, steals, and blocks tend to paint a decent picture of a player’s applied athleticism. His fairly modest rebounds and blocks for a player of his size and length does not exactly echo the image of that gravity defying dunk.

While there are no indications on film that he has issue with quickness, capable of dribbling length of the court in under 4 seconds, seems to be able to stay with his assignments for the most part, there are not a lot of indication of top tier explosiveness, either. However, strong finish rate at the rim does suggest above average quickness.

Winner: Jerian Grant (by a wide margin)

Skills

Grant and Jones both displayed very high skill level at the point guard position. They control tempo, handle and pass very well, both good perimeter threats, and both are very good at anticipating passing lanes.

At this point you should know about DraftExpress scouting videos, and they’ll do a better job illustrating the two players’ respective skills. You can find them here and here

However, if you’re too lazy go through four videos, here are my spark-notes

  • Both players are excellent at pick and roll passing and scoring.
  • Tyus Jones is great at transition passing while Jerian Grant is good at scoring in transition.
  • Jerian Grant is a great finisher around the rim while Tyus Jones struggled at the rim.
  • Jerian Grant is an inconsistent shooter from range while Tyus Jones show promise with with his 3 point percentage.

Here are the numbers for comparison

PnR passing(PPP)
A/T
FG% at the rim
%FG at the rim
2pt % Jump shot
3pt%
FT%
Steal/40 minutes
Rebounds/40 minutes
Assists/40 minutes
Grant 1.21 3.07 73% 31% 40% 31% 78% 1.8 3.3 7.1
Jones 1.7 2.86 55% 25% 36% 37% 88% 1.8 4 6.6

In my opinion, while Grant compiled higher assist numbers, Tyus Jones have a more advanced court vision due to the fact that Grant compiled his numbers as a more ball-dominant player. Both fit the Rockets system in that they are great pick and roll decision makers, and they like to push the pace in transition. It'll be interesting to see if Rockets choose Jones' shooting or Grant's finishing ability, both traits Rockets desperately need along with their playing making ability.

A dirty little secret is that neither of these guy really guarded the best PGs full time last season. Duke hid Tyus Jones on non-scorers while Quinn Cook took on most of the tough back court assignments. Jerian Grant, playing next to the smaller, quicker Demetrius Jackson, found himself rather liberally matched up on shooting guards.

Tyus Jones’ size, weight and lateral quickness were all major hurdles defending pick and roll plays, and will likely continue in the NBA. His best defensive trait is that he has great anticipation on steals, averaged 1.5 a game despite less than ideal physical tools.

Jerian Grant was equally as good at getting steals with his long wingspan and basketball savvy, however some poor defensive habits like poor screen awareness and lack of intensity on the defensive end prevented him from reaching his full defensive potential. Despite better physical tools, his defensive advanced number are poorer due to playing with a poorer defensive team.

Winner: Jerian Grant (with a slight edge)

Analytics

Daryl Morey is widely regarded as the nerd king of the NBA with his MIT background and push for sports analytics, so he obviously breaks dow analytic factors in when it comes to evaluating prospects. With more and more data available, more and more data driven people are able to apply it to APBRmetrics and create more sophisticated analysis.

If you are Charles Barkley, you can skip this part. In fact, what are you doing reading anyway, Chuck? Atlantic City’s economy needs you.

The forum APBRmetrics collaborated with DraftExpress for an article where they aggregate different prospect evaluation models, and compare their rankings. You can read up on the details about the who and how of each model here.

Layne Vashro Steve Shea Nick Restifo Jesse Fischer Masseffect BPM rank
Grant 20 25 13 11 27 31
Jones 10 9 5 10 8 22

The first thing that should be apparent is that despite worse physical tools and raw stats, Tyus Jones is unilaterally ranked higher than Jerian Grant by the analytic community. A large reason being that most of these model are regression of data from the recent past, and they take age into account, and other takes into account high school recruiting ranks in their models.

Tyus Jones being 19 and a top recruit (and obviously good) raises the profile in his favor since most high profile recruits that enter the draft early tend to be the most talented and successful individuals, and they end up succeeding in the NBA in various degree, the effect is only more pronounced since the one-and-done rule came into effect.

On the other hand, players that stick around until senior year tend to be late bloomers and players lagging in development. While there are instances where they went on to become successful NBA players, probably a lot more end up failing to live up to their promise. Jerian Grant, being an older prospect and not a very high-profile recruit hurts him here.

Kevin Pelton’s WARP (wins above replacement player) also graded Tyus Jones higher than Jerian Grant. In fact, it seems to be especially punitive with Jerian Grant, giving him only a 0.9 while the older Delon Wright gets a 2.6. Kevin Pelton explains that the WARP projection actually puts more emphasis in past seasons, so Grant’s less than stellar first 2 seasons end up hurting his projection.

However, those are not the only reasons Jerian Grant is less favored. BPM is an advance plus/minus stat that measure per possession production on the floor without any external factors, and Tyus Jones still ranked higher in both defensive and offensive BPM.

Statistical models obviously can be wrong in prediction, otherwise it’d be magic, not science, but when so many different methods points to a same conclusion, you have to start take notice.

Winner: Tyus Jones (in overwhelming fashion)

Intangibles

Normally, I tend to gloss over the intangibles, because when scouts rave about intangibles, it’s usually code for lacking the tangibles. However, the intangibles are the core foundation in both of these players, and it’d be an error to not examine further.

Jerian Grant has NBA pedigree. He's the son of Harvey Grant, nephew of Horace Grant, and brother of current 76er Jerami Grant. (Ed. Note: The Washington Post had a terrific story about the family in February) Basketball is in his blood and NBA is almost an inevitability. Passion towards the game is something you never had to doubt with one of the Grant brothers, they never thought about anything else growing up other than being a professional basketball player.

Being a guard, his game is radically different from that of his father and his All-Star uncle, but you can no doubt see his lineage in his workmanlike mentality. He has improved every season as a college player, from former 3-star recruit to now a likely first-round pick. Any team would love to have the leadership and basketball IQ he brings.

Tyus Jones does not have an NBA pedigree, but he has his own pedigree. Winning is Tyus Jones' pedigree. He has won so much in his young life that I'm surprise that this doesn't automatically start playing when he walks onto a basketball court. He has won a high school state title, 3 FIBA tournaments, and a NCAA national championship. You wonder why he has the confidence to hit game winners on the road as a freshman? Why he has the poise to carry his team in the biggest game of the year with potential Top 5 picks Jahlil Okafor in foul trouble and Justise Winslow struggling on offense? Tyus Jones is so conditioned to win that the moment never fazes him. He is a 19 years old with the intangibles of a 10-year veteran.

Some players can play an entire career and never be this poised down the wire. It's more than what a mix tape of him just hitting clutch shot can show. It's like Tyus Jones can sense momentum and a switch just flips when it's winning time. Playing with two other highly talented individuals is a very unique challenge, and Jones manages to complement them when they play well and step up when they don't.

Winner: Tyus Jones by a hair

Conclusion: It's a tie, of course it is

It is a cop out for me to declare a virtual tie between these 2 players, but the fact is that the merits and drawbacks of the 2 players are so similar that either one will make the same impact as an NBA player as the other. Their ceilings are both high quality bench guard in my opinion, and they can be one right away. While I would prefer the Rockets go another route if the choice is limited to these two, I would be optimistic if the Rockets draft either player.