It’s no secret the Chicago Bulls will need to bolster their depth at the forward position before the 2023-24 begins, and there does appear to still be a few solid options remaining unsigned. But while I did lament Chicago’s decision to let Trendon Watford slip through their grasp, the idea that Derrick Jones Jr. could return to fill the void always remained in the back of my mind.
Earlier this summer Jones Jr. opted out of his player option with the Bulls to test the waters of free agency. After averaging the fewest minutes played per game since his sophomore season, that seems like the logical decision to make. That being said, it wouldn’t have surprised me if the 26-year-old opted out in order to negotiate a long-term deal with Chicago to ensure his financial security either.
That doesn’t appear to be the case, however, as the Dallas Mavericks have reportedly agreed to a deal with the free agent foward. DJJ joins a team led by Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, looking to surge back next season and rejoin the ranks of the Western Conference’s contenders.
Shams Charania of The Athletic was the first to break this story.
Derrick Jones Jr. will be missed as a key piece of the Chicago Bulls’ second unit.
Jones Jr. averaged just 5 points and 2.4 rebounds in 14 minutes per game for the Bulls last season, but his box score statistics wouldn’t tell the full story on the impact he had for this team last season. He was Chicago’s best rim-running and lob threat, arguably their best defensive forward, and was versatile enough to spend 10% of his on-court playtime as a small-ball center.
Despite his relatively minimal raw production, it’s for these reasons that the Bulls were an astounding +7.5 points better per 100 possessions with DJJ on the court.
This flexibility will be huge for the Mavericks next season, as their postseason struggles made it clear to see they were lacking in depth. DJJ will likely slot in as the primary reserve behind the recently-signed Grant Williams in Dallas, but could also see minutes at small forward and small ball center as well.
Speaking of small ball, unless the Bulls intend to play that brand of basketball permanently, it’s now more obvious than ever they need to find someone to replace DJJ. Although Watford and Jones Jr. are off the board, the Bulls’ three best remaining options to fill in for the latter player still remain unsigned and available for Chicago to make a last second splash.