Duke Basketball: Tre Jones may be Michelangelo of transition passing

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Commentary on the Duke basketball team’s slew of fast-break plays often focuses on the finisher; without a pinpoint passer, though, many of those finishes would have never taken place.

Bobby Hurley made them look easy in the early ’90s. Tyus Jones made them look snazzy in 2015. Nowadays, Duke basketball freshman point guard Tre Jones makes fast-break passes look like masterpieces.

Sure, part of the joy of watching the long-distance assists of the younger Jones brother comes from the high-flying acrobatics of the guys who are typically on the receiving end.

But it could also be argued that the dunks of his fellow freshmen starters — Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish — wouldn’t happen nearly as often or pack quite the same punch without the insane ability of Jones to thread a needle with a 60-foot bounce pass or to fling a perfectly placed alley-oop pass while diving out of bounds to save the ball.

During the No. 3 Blue Devils’ 113-49 home win against Stetson on Saturday night, Jones put his artwork on full display. Notice below that four of the top five plays from the game — according to the Duke basketball program’s official Twitter account —  include a transition pass from Jones:


You likely also noticed the one fast break shown above that doesn’t include a pass from Jones began as a result of a steal from Jones.

But the Apple Valley, Minn., native obviously doesn’t care how his contributions appear in the box score. In fact, he didn’t even score in the Stetson game; this isn’t because he missed a bunch of shots — he attempted just one.

More from Ball Durham

Of course, it’s not as if the stats of the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder aren’t a thing of beauty. He ranks second in the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio (6.00). He has 48 assists and only eight turnovers across Duke’s 7-1 start.

Also, Jones is already tied with current Duke associate head coach Jon Scheyer for the most games (three) in a season by any Blue Devil in history with zero turnovers while dishing out at least seven assists.

He has a creative style — nearly mistake-free — while directing the Blue Devils’ high-powered offense (94.3 points per game).

And that style shines brightest on fast breaks.

What Jones seems to understand so well — based on the way he handles transition opportunities — is the scientific fact that passes can travel far quicker than dribbles. A few times this season, as a result of his heaves, the Blue Devils have made the ball travel nearly 90 feet in about a second and without a single dribble.

Also, Jones is surpassing expectations for his ability to score when need be (he is averaging 9.0 points while shooting .482 from the field and .429 from three). He’s also tied with Reddish for second on the team in steals with 13 (Williamson has 16).

And as a result of all of the above — as well as his infectious team-first mentality — his name is starting to appear in the first round of more and more mock drafts.

NBADraft.net has him going 30th in the 2019 NBA Draft to the San Antonio Spurs. Tankathon.com has him going 17th to the Atlanta Hawks.

Next. Top five point guards of the Coach K era. dark

OK, for the sake of those Duke basketball fans who are holding out hope that Jones will return for his sophomore season, I’ll stop now with the draft talk and try to help keep the secret that the floor general in Durham at the moment is a true master of his art.