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Grizzlies Free Agency Profiles: Derrick Jones Jr.

Derrick Jones Jr. is an explosive athlete that’s rounding out his game, but would he be able to power through the crowd at the 4 in Memphis?

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Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Derrick Jones Jr. – Wing/Big, University of Nevada - Las Vegas (UNLV)

23 years old, 6’6” 210 pounds, 7’0” wingspan

DRAFT: Undrafted, signed with Phoenix as an undrafted rookie in 2016.

NBA Experience: 4 years with 2 teams (1.5 seasons with Phoenix; 2.5 seasons with Miami Heat)

CAREER STATS: 171 games (19.4 minutes per game average), 6.7 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game, 0.7 assists per game, 51.1% field goal percentage, 28.2% three point percentage, 69% free throw shooting, 55.3% effective field goal percentage, 13.8 PER, .127 win shares per 48 minutes.

2019-20 HIGHLIGHTS

Yes, I posted the highlight tapes of just dunks, because those are the only things YouTube pulled up when you search for his highlights. Derrick Jones Jr. has developed the reputation for being one of the league’s best dunkers.

He’s evolving into more than a dunker though.

The Miami Heat have done a great job of utilizing Jones’ athleticism. He was dubbed the moniker of “Derrick Zones” — courtesy of former Grizz exec, staff writer for The Athletic John Hollinger — for his brilliance at the top of Miami’s zone. I’m still scarred about how he obliterated Memphis at the top of the zone in December, when he corralled 4 fourth-quarter steals. Offensively, he’s served more as a cutter (1.46 points per possession, 82nd percentile) and as a roller (1.50 PPP, 95th percentile). Statistically, he averaged a career-high in points (8.5), assists (1.1), 3-point percentage and attempts (28% on 132 attempts), and steals (1.0).

Going into free agency, teams are going to ask what else he could become, especially since he’s only 23 years old. He could become this explosive roller that’s a dynamic, switch-heavy defender. But also how much will a short big that can’t shoot all too well command for an offer sheet?

ESPN’s Bobby Marks listed Jones as a potential external free agent target for the Memphis Grizzlies this summer. Would the Grizzlies be wise to make an offer?

Miami Heat v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Numbers That Make Jones

  • 1.3 - Jones possessed a block percentage of 1.3 this regular season, ranking in the 92nd percentile per Cleaning the Glass. Despite his height, he uses his pogo stick hops to serve as a nice weak-side rim protector. Though he doesn’t possess the typical stature of an NBA big, his leaping ability and timing on blocking shots offset his lack of great size.
  • 5.2 - Jones rebounded 5.2 of his team’s missed shot attempts (93rd percentile, per Cleaning the Glass). His explosiveness makes him a threat on the glass, as he can explode through the paint and finish over a crowd at any moment on the offensive end.
  • 74 - Jones shot 74% at the rim this season, which fell in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning the Glass. If you’re not a threat from downtown, you have to be elite converting at least in the paint or in the mid-range. Jones excelled as a roller and a cutter this season, due to his ability to finish in the paint. With the proper spacing, Jones can thrive with an expanded role, if Miami doesn’t match his offer sheet.

Numbers that may make the Grizzlies pass on Jones

  • 28 - Jones shot a lackluster 28% on catch-and-shoot 3’s. It’s understandable for players to have this as a regular 3-point percentage, as it factors in pull-up shots. But a catch-and-shoot 3-point percentage this low is alarming. Unless Jones turns it around to become even a slightly below-average shooter (33-35% ballpark), he’ll be unplayable when it matters most — as we’re seeing in Miami’s Finals run.
  • 5.9 - Only 5.9% of Jones’ shots came off pull-ups, highlighting his inability to create for himself. It makes him imperative to surround him with playmakers and floor-spacers, as he’d need to operate as a roller and cutter in a pace-and-space system to thrive outside of Miami.

Pulse of Grizz Nation

Grizz Nation do not like the idea of Derrick Jones Jr., and it’s fair to say. Recency bias plays a massive factor, since he can’t get on the floor in the playoffs. It’s a fair assessment, given that he falls in the depth chart behind Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, and Kelly Olynyk, and playoff rotations are usually shorter.

In Memphis, he’d face the same problem, as he’d fall behind Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, Kyle Anderson, and Justise Winslow for minutes at the 4. So finding rotation minutes for him would be hard, and it’s hard to justify shelling out a strong portion of the mid-level exception for a player in this logjam. If De’Anthony Melton somehow got a big offer sheet, and Memphis doesn’t match, it’d be easier to see them target a shooter on the wing, rather than an athletic wing/big.

Memphis Grizzlies v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

Final Offer

Derrick Jones Jr. is going to be polarizing when he enters free agency. He’s only 23 years old and has shown growth as a defender and a pseudo-playmaker. He’s also one of the league’s best athletes, and he can legitimately cover positions 1-4 defensively.

Despite the praise, I don’t see the fit in Memphis, nor do I see the Grizzlies making him a primary target — if they explore external free agents. The minutes at the 4 aren’t there for him, as two of their 4 best players (Jackson and Clarke) both take lots of time there, and their 3’s (Winslow and Anderson) should take any remaining minutes there too.

He’d be a better fit somewhere like Minnesota or Dallas, where they have a star stretch-5 and great playmakers that can maximize Jones as a roller.

Final offer: 2 years, $10M. If Memphis were to make an offer, anything more than this wouldn’t be a great move.

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