The Knicks’ plan to find a point guard through free agency doesn’t have to be “Jalen Brunson or Bust.”
If Brunson sticks with the Mavericks, after his heady playoff performance, which continued with a 28-point outburst in a Game 3 victory over the Suns on Friday night, there’s another true point guard playing in the Western Conference second round who intrigues the Knicks.
Memphis backup point guard Tyus Jones, who played three seasons for Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota, is weaving a career year and is on the Knicks’ radar, according to an NBA source.
The former Duke playmaker often goes overlooked and unheralded because he’s Ja Morant’s backup. But he has been a glue guy during Memphis’ rousing season that continues against the Warriors in Game 3 on Saturday night.
League sources said Jones could command the full non-taxpayer $10.2 million mid-level exception — which the Knicks possess as they don’t have cap space.
“I love him,” one NBA coach told The Post. “He has to be one of the best backup point guards in the league, if not the best.”
Jones, 25, set an NBA record for best assists-to-turnover ratio this season (7.4 to 1) in 73 games — the fourth straight season in which he has led the league. The central question is whether a career backup can make the jump to starter, and in New York, no less.
In the Knicks’ circumstance, though, Jones could occupy a 25-minute starting role and have Immanuel Quickley or Derrick Rose as a change-of-pace backup.
With Kemba Walker effectively done as a Knick and Rose no longer a guarantee because of his health, the franchise is desperate to add a legitimate general floor to the roster. (This year’s draft is considered weak at point guard).
Jones also knows RJ Barrett from the Duke brotherhood. Jones’ younger brother, Tre, played with Barrett at Duke in 2018-19.
If Jones isn’t an explosive penetrator, he may not need to be, because Barrett and Julius Randle are relentless attackers. That Jones shot 39 percent from 3-point range is a boon.
In 21.2 minutes per game, Jones averaged 4.4 assists and 8.7 points. He also committed fewer than one turnover per game (0.6).
“Jones had the best year of his career,” one NBA personnel man said. “He’s a solid backup — not a starter. He shoots it well, but that’s his best attribute of it.”
Jones played for Thibodeau from 2016-19 with the Timberwolves and was on the roster when the coach got canned.
In 2017-18, Jones, a 2015 first-round pick, played in all 82 games, so he has shown durability. After a season of the oft-injured Walker and Rose, that would be refreshing for the Knicks.
Some scouts, however, view Jones as too small and not athletic enough to be a full-fledged starting point guard. Yet the Grizzlies, in an oddity, went 20-3 when Jones started for an injured Morant, because he’s known as an organizer.
“He isn’t good enough, simply,” the personnel man said of Jones being a full-blown starter. “He struggled to maintain a role as a direct backup [in Memphis] until this season. I have fluctuated in and out of [the] Grizzlies’ rotation as backup and third point guard.”
Thibodeau likes winners and Jones won an NCAA title at Duke in 2015. (Brunson won two at Villanova).
“[Tyus] is an adequate defender,” another NBA scout said. “He doesn’t get to the line and is just not quite dynamic enough to be a point guard on a final-four team. He can start on many teams, but not title-contending ones. He shot the ball very well this year, but that hasn’t been his pattern.”
Jones is a 35.2 percent 3-point shooter in 455 regular-season games — a mark slightly better than his Duke brother Barrett.
With a complicated and expensive Brunson signing, Jones could be the steadier fallback.