In the first three games of the season Derrick Jones Jr. started for the Miami Heat due to injuries. In just the second game of the season against the Wizards, Jones added 17 points and 4 offensive rebounds in a Miami Heat win.
If you’d heard of Jones before this season it’s most likely because you watched the 2017 NBA Dunk Contest. Jones has supreme length and athleticism; standing in at 6’7” with a 7’0” wingspan and a vertical over 44”. He was promptly nicknamed “Airplane Mode” during his stint with the Northern Arizona Suns of the D-League in 2016-2017. Unfortunately, Jones couldn’t prove much with the Phoenix Suns following his electric dunk contest and continued to see time in the now called G-League. Eventually he signed with the Sioux Falls Skyforce and worked his way up to the Miami Heat towards the end of the 2017-18 season.
The Heat and Jones were a match made in heaven. He exudes potential and the Pat Riley “Heat Culture” has been known to bring the most out of a player. Just ask rising star Josh Richardson and big man Hassan Whiteside, who both spent a chunk of time in the G-League. Jones really credits the Miami Heat organisation for his newfound success stating, “I work harder than I did ever in my life when I’m with this team.”
Jones has added value with a limited role on the Heat. He attacks in transition and benefits from the playmaking prowess of his teammates.
All Jones has to do is run the floor and Dragic will find him. From there Jones jumps from outside the key with an acrobatic finish. Jones will flourish in areas like this; in his short NBA career he has finished at the rim at a stellar 71% (71/107). Even though these numbers may be due to a small sample size it’s easy to envision why they would be so high. His length and athleticism make for the perfect finisher in transition.
It’s not just in transition that Jones has been able to attack the basket. Jones is also great at attacking closeouts:
After a drive and kick from Dragic, Jones is wide open on the perimeter and Batum starts to close out. Jones blows by him for an emphatic finish. A key part of this play is the fact that Batum closed out on Jones. As long as Jones shoots the three at an average level his game should open up tremendously. Unfortunately, he has never been a great shooter going just 24% from downtown in his short career. Though that could change. Heat GM and coach Riley and Spoelstra have both credited Jones as being a very hard worker and Jones said his shot was his main priority this summer.
While Jones’ work on the offensive side of the floor is what will garner most of the attention, the main reason for him seeing the floor is on the defensive side of the ball. His combination of size, length, speed, and veridicality makes the perfect build for the Heat’s 2-4 switching system. He is versatile enough to switch and competently guard 3 positions. Also he can get back and block a shot after getting caught behind a screen. Here he blocks MVP of last year James Harden out of nowhere:
Not only can Jones defend in close, but also out on the perimeter. Here he is attempting to guard James Harden in a crunch time iso situation. He does a great job of staying with Harden and extending out to tip his patent stepback three:
It seems like even once James Johnson and other Heat players come back from injury Jones should stay in the rotation. He is a great defender and brings a ton of energy to a pretty average Miami Heat roster. Jones is still developing (he’s only 21) and could turn into another very smart pickup by the Heat. Pat Riley and co. have found themselves a young gem who is willing to work hard for his playing time. How good Jones Jr. will end up being is up in the air. One thing that is definite though: Derrick Jones Jr. has found a home with the Miami Heat.