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It’s deja vu all over again: Tyus Jones reminds the Doppelgänger Machine of familiar faces

The Washington Wizards guard goes through the Statistical Doppelgänger Machine.

2023 NBA Playoffs - Los Angeles Lakers v Memphis Grizzlies
Wizards guard Tyus Jones
Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

The Doppelgänger Machine feels like it’s seen this show. You’ll see why, but first new readers might be asking: Just what the hell is a Doppelgänger Machine?

So glad you asked. Each year — generally in dog days of the NBA offseason, when teams are busy chasing down young players for two-way contracts and training camp deals — I dig into my bag of spreadsheet tricks and run a handmade algorithm that tells me which players in NBA history had seasons “most similar” to players on the Wizards roster.

My approach factors age and an array of pace-neutral statistical factors like minutes played, usage, preferred shot types, offensive and defensive rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, fouls, scoring, and an overall measure of the player’s production relative to era.

Interestingly — at least to me — is that while I don’t include variables for size, position, or athleticism, individuals tend to get “doppelgängers” who are relatively close in each of those categories. Not always, but often enough to intrigue. Or maybe I’m just easily impressed.

I thought we’d get started in this annual offseason tradition with one of the newcomers. The problem? It’s a new name with a similar game. I’m referring, of course, to Tyus Jones, who the team acquired in the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

Jones is a small, 27-year old guard in the final year of his contract, who’s best known as a high quality backup to Ja Morant. He’s a PG who makes shots, sets up teammates and avoids turnovers. I feel like I’ve written these exact words before.

Anyway, let’s look at his doppelgängers:

  1. Monte Morris, Denver Nuggets, 2018-19 — Yes, this is the same Monte Morris who played for the Wizards last season. The same one they traded to the Detroit Pistons for a second round pick. The doppelgänger machine thinks Washington basically traded away Monte Morris to replace him with a slightly shorter version of Monte Morris. Maybe slightly better? Maybe?
  2. A.J. Price, Washington Wizards, 2012-13 — Price was nothing great or even good, and this below average season was the best of his career. Still, he was an acceptable backup and spot starter behind John Wall, and he would have been happy to come back at the league minimum. Naturally, Ernie Grunfeld and the team’s brainiacs at the time were too smart for that. Instead, they signed Eric Maynor — a guy who “just knows how to play.”
  3. Monte Morris, Denver Nuggets, 2021-22 — Again. You’ll see his name again. Small PG who makes shots, sets up teammates and avoids turnovers.
  4. Dana Barros, Philadelphia 76ers, 1993-94 — You may remember Barros from such places as the Monte Morris doppelgänger article I wrote last year. This was Barros’ age 26 season. He posted a 130 PPA (in PPA — my all-around production metric — average is 100 and higher is better), which was the best mark of his career to that point. The next season, he erupted to his peak score of 172. While that kind of leap from Jones would be great for the Wizards, his 126 PPA last season was actually a drop for him — he reached 147 in 2021-22. Still, the overall style (and level) of play was similar between the two for these seasons from Barros and Jones.
  5. Jason Williams, Memphis Grizzlies, 2004-05 — Interesting comp. My memory says that Williams drove more often than Jones does, though I could be thinking of a younger version of White Chocolate. Alas, this was the pre-tracking era, so I can’t look it up. At any rate, this was the 29-year old Williams, who was dropping off a bit from the previous couple years, which were his best. That offseason, a five-team trade landed him with the Miami Heat, where he was a starting guard on their 2006 championship team.
  6. Dana Barros, Boston Celtics, 1998-99 — Barros was 31, and it would be the last above average season of his career.
  7. Monte Morris, Washington Wizards, 2022-23 — The Morris from last season and the Jones from last season were pretty similar. Shooting, rebounds, assists, turnovers, scoring were all about the same. Jones shot a little more often and produced more steals while fouling less. If Morris got on your nerves by not driving, you’ll probably be rankled again. Last season, Morris drove 7.0 times per 36 minutes. Jones: 7.8.
  8. Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors, 2018-19 — This was VanVleet’s age 24 season (his second in the league), and it was right before he’d make the leap to being the above average starter he’s been the past four years.
  9. Monte Morris, Denver Nuggets, 2019-20 — Him again.
  10. Monte Morris, Denver Nuggets, 2020-21 — A fitting end to the doppelgänger list.

I’ll list a few more, in part because we’re out of seasons from Monte Morris. (I mean, yes he did technically play in another season — he got 25 total minutes his rookie year, but functionally the five seasons in the list of “most similars” used up the rest of his career so far.)

  • Jordan Farmar — New Jersey Nets, 2010-11 — Similar style of production, but Jones is better than Farmar was.
  • Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs, 2016-17 — Similar style (though getting less similar than the list above). Once again, Jones is simply better than Mills was.
  • Brent Price, Washington Bullets, 1995-96 — This was Price’s good year, which frankly the Price family owed fans. That was the year Washington sent a first round pick (that became Vitaly Potapenko) to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Brent’s brother Mark. Mark had been a stellar player in his day — four-times All-NBA — but arrived in Washington with a foot injury that limited him to seven games and 127 total minutes. Into the void of playing time Brent stepped, and he shot 46.2% on threes, dished 10.4 assists per 100 possessions, and generally looked like a good NBA player. It was the only average or better season of his career.

Scrolling down the list yields more of the same — small guards who are decent playmakers, avoid turnovers and shoot reasonably well, including Jose Calderon, Cameron Payne, Steve Blake, Anthony Peeler, Craig Hodges, and (of course) Washington immortal Chris Whitney.

Kinda makes me wonder if maybe the Wizards could have used Porzingis to trade for something different instead of getting Morris 2.0 and the second round pick they got when they dumped Morris.

Who’s next through the Doppelgänger Machine? Vote below...


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