Derrick Jones Jr. giving the Bulls an elite-level shot blocker

In the wake of the absence of the two-time All-Star center and former Orlando Magic stud Nikola Vucevic, the Chicago Bulls turned to more small-ball lineups running small forward Derrick Jones Jr. at the five. And this adjustment from second-year head coach Billy Donovan and the Bulls’ staff looks like a brilliant move to run Jones at the five in the wake of the absence of Vucevic of late.

It’s hard to argue with any of the production that Jones gave the Bulls of late. It was mostly during the five-game Western Conference road trip where Donovan and the Bulls’ staff gave Jones more time playing at the five.

And for the first time in his career, he’s now played some minutes at the five. In fact, Jones has played around 12 percent of his minutes for the Bulls so far this season at the five. And if you combine his allotment of playing time at the four and/or the five, you get more than 57 percent of all of his minutes on the court this season.

According to NBA stat tracking, Jones has played some of his best basketball on both ends of the floor this season playing at the four and the five. When playing at the center position this season, Jones is shooting 75 percent from the field and has made all four of his attempts from the free-throw line, with two assists, and no turnovers.

Moreover, Jones is also playing some solid basketball on offense when getting minutes at the four. Playing at the four this season, Jones is shooting around 59 percent from the field and 33 percent from beyond the arc, is perfect on six attempts from the free-throw line, with three assists, and one turnover.

Chicago Bulls are getting insane shot-blocking production out of Derrick Jones Jr.

But it is the defensive effort for Jones that really proves the value he’s bringing to the table for the Bulls so far this season. He ranks in the top 10 in the NBA in block percentage this season among eligible players, at 5.1. That is also good for the best block percentage on the team.

Jones is averaging one block per game this season, and a career-best 2.0 blocks per 36 minutes. And he’s got a pretty even distribution of blocks defending each position group. Half of his blocks came this season when defending at the four or the five. The other half actually came mostly against guards when he switched on defense.

It’s really impressive how disruptive Jones was in general on defense so far this season, not just in the way of blocks. He’s registered at least one block and/or helped to force at least one turnover on the following stars this season:

  • Anthony Davis
  • Kevin Durant
  • Rudy Gobert
  • Russell Westbrook
  • Paul George

That’s an insane list for someone who is playing minutes at the five for the first time in his career. A lot of those turnovers he forced came in the way of blocks and steals during the five-game Western Conference road trip the Bulls just wrapped up (i.e. against the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers).

Want further proof of the effectiveness of Jones on the defensive end of the floor this season, particularly with his shot-blocking, just look at some of the other leaders in block percentage.

Jones is actually the lone traditional small forward that ranks among the top 10 players in the league in block percentage this season. You have to mention that Jones is playing the bulk of his minutes at the four and/or the five, but this is still a really solid accomplishment out of the gates for him.

Among non-big men last season, Jones ranked second in block percentage, at 3.7. The only player ahead of him in that regard last season was the Charlotte Hornets rookie forward P.J. Washington, who is showing signs of standout defensive ability early in his career.

While Jones’ shot-blocking is clearly having a major impact on the Bulls playing great defense out of the gates this season, his impact as a whole is untold. So far this season, he’s registered a career-best 2.8 box plus/minus, sparkling 70.7 true shooting percentage, and .227 win shares per 48 minutes.

His defensive contributions are a big reason why he’s posting career-best advanced stats early this season. Jones currently has a career-best 1.9 defensive box plus/minus, which still doesn’t fully illustrate his impact on the Bulls on that end of the floor.

All we can really do as Bulls fans right now is truly appreciate the defensive impact Jones made for this team so far this season playing at a new position for the first time in his career. Adding Jones to this roster last offseason was a tremendous move by the front office that is definitely helping the Bulls win games right now.

Following the big 114-108 road win over the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 19, the Bulls are sporting a record of 11-5. Next up for Jones and the Bulls is a meeting with the New York Knicks at home at the United Center on Nov. 21, with tip-off time set for 7 p.m. CT.