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San Antonio Spurs: Derrick Jones Jr. is a fascinating free agency option

Mar 11, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. (5) gestures after making a three pointer against the Charlotte Hornets during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. (5) gestures after making a three pointer against the Charlotte Hornets during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
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The San Antonio Spurs might be intrigued by the high flying Derrick Jones Jr.

Even before he was in the NBA Finals as a member of the Miami Heat, Derrick Jones Jr. was on the radar of many NBA teams. The San Antonio Spurs got one of the first looks at him as the high flying dunk artist made his entry into the league with the Phoenix Suns back in 2016.

Labeled as just a dunker for a while, Jones has finally found a home in Miami. As the Heat tend to do, they’ve taken a player who was undervalued and put him through the wringer of their conditioning program. He’s come out the other side as a more well rounded and incredibly conditioned athlete.

Jones and the rest of the league owe the Miami Heat a thank you of sorts after this. With several big names set to hit free agency this summer, Jones included, it’s unlikely that the Heat will be able to bring everyone back to Miami for another title run in 2021. Someone else is going to have the chance to scoop Derrick Jones up.

Should the San Antonio Spurs be interested in Derrick Jones Jr.?

There’s a case for why the San Antonio Spurs should be interested in Derrick Jones Jr. First of all, he’s just 23 years old and is coming off of a season where he looked the best he has throughout his young career. He’s still got a ways to go to in his development but his firmly on the right track and is still very much in line with the ages of the rest of the Spurs young core.

It might seem like a strange fit at first, signing Jones could crowd up the Spurs already busy backcourt. But there is a possibility that Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes, and DeMar DeRozan are all playing for other teams to start the 2020-21 season. If that’s the case, the Spurs are going to need bodies to fill out their rotation.

One major point of emphasis for the Spurs this year should be improving their perimeter defense. With Belinelli and Forbes both playing substantial minutes this year the Spurs were getting blitzed on the perimeter. Opposing guards and wings were regularly able to get past San Antonio’s revolving door defenders. Jones would immediately be able to come in and help with that.

Playing tough, fundamentally sound defense is a must for any player on the Miami Heat. That’s what the organization is built on and it shows in their player development. They’ve taken Jones’s rediculous athleticism and shown him how to harness it into meaningful defensive ability.

He averaged 1.5 steals and 1 block per 36 minutes this year. He plays excellent man to man defense and also showed an ability to read opposing offenses and jump passing lanes to create easy fastbreak opportunities the other way. And when he gets on the break, watch out.

https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/12/10/0021900354/710/d4cd3641-1c8d-4a0f-6fe7-146e0e5bfed2_1280x720.mp4

Jones still has work to do to round out his half-court offensive game. He shot just 28 percent from behind the arc this year after shooting 30 percent from deep the year before. He’s a menace around the rim and is a regular candidate to deliver thunderous put-back dunks but until he’s viewed as a consistent option from behind the arc opposing defenses are going to continue to sag off of him.

The counter to that is that giving him room to shoot also means giving him room to gather for a high flying dunk or rebound, both of which are staples of his game. It’s still the right move to leave him open from behind the arc but it’s not totally without consequences.

Where he is very interesting is as a roll man in pick and roll situations. He’s still not burly enough to set devastating picks but he has developed a sneaky way of slipping his screen and diving straight toward the rim. And if he gets even an inch of space it just takes a watchful passer to get the ball up to where only Jones can get to it and let him hammer home the dunk.

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Derrick Jones Jr. proved that he can be a valuable member of a championship-contending team this year. Now it might be time for him to show he can be more than that. The San Antonio Spurs should at least consider extending him an offer when he hits free agency this offseason.

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