At 9-4, the Mavericks are among the top teams in the Western Conference, and forward Derrick Jones Jr. has become the surprise player of the year so far, writes The Dallas Morning News’ Brad Townsend.
Known more for his athleticism and defense than his scoring or shooting, Jones is currently averaging a career-high 8.9 points through his first 13 games, which have all been starts. He’s also taking a career-high 3.9 three-point attempts and connecting at a 35.3% clip.
“I really don’t care [about outside opinions],” Jones said. “If you want to label me as a dunker and leave me open, then please, by all means, leave me open. I’m gonna keep shooting the shots that I take and I promise you, they’re gonna fall.”
According to Townsend, the Mavericks have had their eye on Jones since at least 2019, when they tried to acquire him and Kelly Olynyk in a package deal. Jones wound up joining the Mavericks this offseason on a minimum-salary contract after Portland matched the $33MM offer sheet that Matisse Thybulle signed with Dallas.
While Jones is ultimately making less money this year than he would have on the player option he declined from the Bulls ($2.7MM compared to about $3.3MM), he’s capitalizing on his expanded opportunity with the Mavs. Townsend writes that he may very well hold onto his starting spot if his play keeps up.
“I have put in a lot of work behind the scenes,” Jones said. “I feel that thus far in my career, I haven’t gotten the recognition that I think I deserve. And I feel like this year is just going to be the year.”
We have more Southwest Division notes:
- The Rockets suffered a close loss to the Clippers on Friday, showing room for improvement on the defensive end, The Athletic’s Kelly Iko writes. Still, Houston is one of the surprise teams in the Western Conference behind a young core and some former Rockets are impressed. James Harden said Houston has “a good thing going on.” Current Clips forward P.J. Tucker said the young team plays similar to some of his old Rockets teams. “Switching slows down offenses and makes guys have to play iso,” Tucker told The Athletic. “You have guys that can guard multiple positions, obviously a lot of similarities in that. That’s something that if you got weapons at the four and five that can switch, it makes it tough on guys.“
- The Spurs have now lost eight games in a row after allowing a 19-point comeback to Memphis on Saturday. While Cedi Osman said everyone is upset after going through a stretch where they’re 1-6 in games they’ve led by 10 or more points, rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama isn’t worried about it impacting the locker room, according to Tom Orsborn of San Antonio Express-News. “We have very healthy locker room, healthy relations between each other and, no, this is not an issue at all,” Wembanyama said. “We are losing. We’re losing together. If someone puts their head down, we go help him. Someone falls on the court, all of us rush to help him up.“
- While dealing with a plethora of injuries, the Grizzlies opted for a new, super-sized starting lineup on Sunday against the Celtics, putting Santi Aldama in over Jacob Gilyard, playing him alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. and Bismack Biyombo in the frontcourt (Twitter link via Damichael Cole of the Memphis Commercial Appeal). Aldama responded with career highs of 28 points and six assists in a two-point loss to the Celtics. Second-year two-way wing Vince Williams got some rotation run and looked impressive on defense, according to Cole (Twitter link). Chris Herrington of the Daily Memphian tweets that Williams should get some extended run in subsequent games.