The Chicago Bulls were mentioned as a team with interest in free agent forward Derrick Jones Jr., who spent this season with the Miami Heat, where he enjoyed a career-best season.
The Heat, who are trying to preserve cap space to make an instant upgrade this offseason, while also providing themselves with enough flexibility to play the field in 2021, could end up sacrificing Jones Jr. given the likelihood of him asking for a long-term contract.
Jones Jr. should have many suiters, but financial uncertainty, and a limited pool of teams with cap space, will limit his market. Detroit and Atlanta, two teams also mentioned in the report, could be bigger threats, financially, to sign Jones Jr. than the Bulls, given their empty books. The Pistons are on the hook for just about $70 million next season, and the Hawks stand even stronger with just around $60 million committed.
Both teams could dip into their cap space to sign the 23-year-old, whereas the Bulls will be limited to the non-taxpayer MLE, worth approximately $9.3 million in 2019/2020 and possibly less than that in 2020/2021.
Though, Jones Jr. might wish to land somewhere he’ll get guaranteed minutes, which should rule out the Hawks, who are loaded at the wings and up front.
Finding 25-30 minutes a night for Jones Jr. in a rotation of Kevin Huerter, Cameron Reddish, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, Bruno Fernando, Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon will be close to impossible, and that’s before adding in the sixth overall selection the Hawks have in next month’s NBA draft who might also occupy one of those slots.
That leaves Detroit and Chicago. Despite the presence of Blake Griffin and Sekou Doumbouya, the Pistons should be able to easily carve out 30 minutes a night for Jones Jr. That would get slightly more challenging if the team succeeds in re-signing free agent Christian Wood, but not to the point where minutes wouldn’t be available.
The Bulls, much like the Pistons, also have bodies at the forward slots and up front. Otto Porter, Chandler Hutchison, Lauri Markkanen and Thaddeus Young occupy the forward positions as of right now.
That could change if Chicago’s new management duo of Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley decide to move on from Young, who last season wanted more minutes. Given that the Bulls will be focusing a lot on the development of young players next season, it would appear Young is available on the market and might not be in their future plans.
Also worth noting is the fact that Porter was acquired by Chicago 20 months ago and has played in just 29 games for the club due to injuries.
Between the two remaining suitors, the Bulls should be the superior team next season just based off their talent level, which could swing Jones Jr. to the Windy City, unless the Pistons break the bank for him.
Should the Bulls succeed in acquiring his services, Jones Jr. will provide them with a significant boost at the forward spot, just off his lack of hesitancy. 83.8 percent of his touches lasted less than two seconds, and 77 percent of his shots came off zero dribbles. Jones Jr. rarely milks the clock, and is well-established at keeping the ball moving, a Heat stable.
Jones Jr’s determination resulted in him ranking fourth in the NBA in hanging onto the basketball with a ridiculously efficient 6.9 TOV%. Over 1,375 minutes, Jones Jr. coughed up the ball just 30 times. For the Bulls, a team that ranked 27th in protecting the ball, a low-turnover starter would be a highly welcomed addition.
Defensively, there’s a lot to like, and a lot of upside. At 6’6 with a seven-foot wingspan, Jones Jr. has begun learning how to combine his length with his elite athleticism. While most know him as an NBA dunk champion, he’s begun asserting himself defensively, and utilizing his physical qualities on that end of the floor. While still not a polished product, he will cover a lot of ground, and quickly.
Statistically, Jones Jr. doesn’t rack up huge defensive numbers. That’s more so a result of Erik Spoelstra’s defensive concept of not overplaying your hand than it is ability. Instead of gambling for steals, Jones Jr. mostly stays in front of his opponent to optimize the team concept. That said, he is fully capable of reading passing lanes and striking when the opportunity presents itself, usually leading to highlights on the other end of the floor.
There’s a Gerald Wallace component to Jones Jr., which is intriguing. Not only can he swipe the ball away from opponents, but his length and jumping ability also makes him an underrated shot-blocking threat. With more seasoning and game experience, it would be almost surprising if he didn’t become one of the most versatile defenders at the forward spots.
The Bulls who, outside of Zach LaVine, are lacking in the athleticism department, could use an injection of raw physical qualities, especially defensively.
Offensively is where development is most needed. Jones Jr. was assisted on 81.5 percent of his shots, suggesting self-creation will be a limited element of his game. While he can certainly manage without being able to consistently create his own offense, it does put a cap on his ceiling.
Jones Jr. shot 73.7 percent around the rim, which counted for 49 percent of his offense. The Bulls and Hornets were tied for the league’s worst conversion rate around the rim, at just 62.7 percent this season. Jones Jr. would immediately bring that percentage up.
His efficiency drops off starkly the longer away from the basket he moves however, and his 28 percent mark from three-point range is a problem. While he doesn’t need to become an elite shooter, having the ability to punish defenders for sacking off is a much-needed talent in today’s NBA.
It would likewise behoove Jones Jr. to become a bit more of a playmaker to offset the scoring weaknesses. At just 17.1 passes per night in over 23 minutes, he functions primarily as an off-ball threat who trolls the baseline for duck-ins and lobs. For Jones Jr. to become a more established offensive player, half-court execution has to be higher on the list of priorities, which starts with being able to make reads with the ball in his hands.
Jones Jr. isn’t the final solution to Chicago’s, or Detroit’s, problems. But he is a fairly strong starting point. At 23, he’s far away from being a finished product, but the raw skillset allows for optimism.
Source: Forbes – Business