The Miami Heat 6-foot-6 and 210 pound small forward Derrick Jones Jr. is starting to figure it out, and is apparently a target of the Chicago Bulls.
According to a report from Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago this week, the Chicago Bulls are one of a few teams around the NBA that have interest in signing the Miami Heat ultra athletic wing Derrick Jones Jr. As the reigning NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion and a member of that Heat team that made such a special run through the Eastern Conference side of the playoff bracket all the way to the NBA Finals, Jones Jr. had a plenty bright spotlight on him during the 2019-20 season.
The other teams that are reportedly interested in signing Jones Jr. out of free agency this offseason are the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks. It seems that all of the teams that are interested in signing Jones Jr. this offseason are those that are going through rebuilds in the East at the moment.
Here’s more on what this report from NBC Sports Chicago had to say on the free agent status of Jones Jr.
The Bulls already employ a two-time title-holder in Zach LaVine, and hang the jersey of another from the United Center rafters in Michael Jordan. This offseason, they’re also expected to pursue signing 2020 dunk contest winner Derrick Jones Jr. — who won his in Chicago — away from the Heat in free agency, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
“Detroit (Pistons), Chicago and Atlanta (Hawks) are among the teams expected to have interest in Jones, according to a source,” Jackson writes. “He likely will generate some interest on the open market because of his athleticism, defensive acumen, youth (23) and the belief that he hasn’t reached his ceiling offensively.”
Dunk jokes aside, that’s a nice summary of Jones’ potential value to a team like the Bulls. Still just 23, he’d bring tremendous upside to a rotation that didn’t get much out of its wings last season (Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison combined to appear in just 44 games due to injury).
This report specifically mentions how the Bulls could be adding valuable young wing depth if they were able to sign Jones Jr. And given the lack of consistency in the injury department that the Bulls received from the likes of Chandler Hutchison and Otto Porter Jr. over the course of the last two seasons, it is a valid point that they need to add some young wing depth at this spot in the rotation.
But since there are other wings that Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley could go after this offseason in free agency, what else stands out about Jones Jr.?
Well, one thing is for sure, the Bulls would have a high-flying unit that they could put together at the two and the three if they ever ran Jones Jr. and shooting guard Zach LaVine in the same lineup. The athleticism and in-game dunking ability would be unparalleled by any other team.
It is also a very encouraging sign that Jones Jr. is so young, and is about to be an unrestricted free agent that shouldn’t cost the Bulls all that much (maybe in the range of $8-10 million). The trajectory of his game right now is also completely on the up and up.
The advanced metrics of Jones Jr. over the course of the last few years show the improvement he’s making each passing season. He registered a box plus/minus rating above zero for the first time during the 2018-19 season, and it only continued to improve this season.
The offensive game of his is where he really is starting to figure it out. His shooting from deep leaves a bit to be desired. But he’s starting to turn the ball over less, have better shot selection from within the two-point arc, and he’s becoming more effective and finding his open teammates. The assist percentage for Jones Jr. has continued to rise of late, while the turnover rate is still slightly falling (down to a career low 6.9 percent last season).
During the shortened 2019-20 regular season with the Heat, Jones Jr. played in 59 games (16 of which he started in). And he averaged 8.5 points per game, 3.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 1.0 steals, and 0.6 blocks. Jones Jr. shot 52.7 percent from the field, 28.0 percent from beyond the arc, and 77.2 percent from the free-throw line.
That amounted to a career-best 0.7 box plus/minus rating, 1.0 value over replacement player rating, 126 offensive rating/109 defensive rating, .153 win shares per 48 minutes, 4.4 total win shares, and a 62.0 true shooting percentage. A lot of the all-encompassing advanced metrics for Jones Jr. were career highs during the 2019-20 season.
All things considered, it feels like Jones Jr. could be an intriguing fit with the Bulls. If he doesn’t cost too much in this cycle of free agency, then it is worth the Bulls keeping him high up on their big board on the wing.
Jones Jr. is a former undrafted free agent signing that debuted more than four years ago with the Phoenix Suns. He hails out of the UNLV Rebels basketball program and will be 23 years old at the likely outset of the 2020-21 regular season.