Grading Derrick Jones Jr.’s unexpected return to the Bulls

Derrick Jones Jr., Chicago Bulls (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Derrick Jones Jr., Chicago Bulls (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

As the Chicago Bulls look to continue improving at the margins and rounding out this team’s depth, they could certainly have done worse than bringing Derrick Jones Jr. back on a team-friendly deal. Considering the Bulls had no real depth behind Patrick Williams at power forward, this move directly addresses a need and brings back a young player who had a solid first season in Chicago.

Now up to 14 players on the roster, the Bulls are limited to one additional signing to the main roster. There’s still the possibility Chicago adds another forward, but until then, DJJ is sitting pretty comfortably as the next in line after Pat and the most realistic small ball center on the roster. Barring any other big changes, he’ll get his minutes.

The Athletic’s Shams Charania broke this news, specifying the second year of the deal was a player option and not fully guaranteed.

Making the most of minimal financial flexibility, the Chicago Bulls are bringing back Derrick Jones Jr. after a solid showing last season.

Looking at DJJ’s box score averages, 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game likely won’t jump off the page at you. However, the role that was asked of him with the Bulls didn’t involve stacking up counting stats. It’s also worth noting a finger injury also hampered Jones Jr.’s scoring ability in the latter half of the season.

Still, the Bulls were 3.3 points better per 100 possessions when Jones Jr. was on the court than when he was on the bench. His length, superb athleticism, and unselfish style of play make him a great complementary player next to Chicago’s All-Star trio. DJJ’s above-the-rim style also helped define the exciting up-tempo game the Bulls were playing with Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso throwing lobs in the early season.

It’s also worth noting Jones Jr. is still only 25 years old, despite the fact it feels as though he’s a seasoned NBA vet. He joins the newly acquired Andre Drummond in that category of players who are much younger than it feels.

The main weakness in his game is his lack of a well-developed 3-point shot. Oftentimes teams would sag off of Derrick and focus in on the ball handler, making isolation sets much more difficult for Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. But let’s be honest, if DJJ was a great 3-point shooter, he’d be getting paid significantly more than $3.3 million annually and thus be out of Chicago’s price range.

Bringing back Jones Jr. for cheap also helps the Bulls have an excess of depth in case of another injury-plagued season or if Chicago decides to swing a trade for a big star. In either case, we can count on quality minutes from DJJ whenever his number is called. However, that doesn’t mean the Chicago Bulls should stop trying to improve beyond this signing.

Grade: B