Betting on Himself Nearly Led Mavericks Starter to Celtics

May 30, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) shoots against Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) during the second quarter in game five of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
May 30, 2024; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) shoots against Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) during the second quarter in game five of the western conference finals for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports / Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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The Mavericks are led by the high-powered offensive duo of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, who each generated 36 points in Dallas' closeout win over the Timberwolves to reach the NBA Finals.

Doncic is nearly averaging a triple-double this postseason, producing 28.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. Irving is enjoying a renaissance season where he's contributing 22.8 points, 5.2 assists, and 1.2 steals per playoff tilt. He's also burying 42.1% of the 6.3 threes he's hoisting.

But the Celtics wouldn't have to worry about those two trying to turn their championship dreams into nightmares if it wasn't for the needed boost the Mavericks are getting from their supporting cast.

Dallas' role players are completely bought in on jobs that require them to stay ready while operating in a system where the ball is almost always in Doncic and Irving's hands.

One player who's thrived in that structure is Derrick Jones Jr. The six-foot-five wing opted against a $3.3 million player option with the Bulls last summer. That decision led him to a minimum contract with the Mavericks.

"I could have accepted my player option in Chicago and still be on the team that's not in the playoffs right now," Jones Jr. told reporters in Dallas on Sunday. "I just decided to bet on myself."

That's led to the seven-year veteran going from exclusively coming off the bench for the Bulls last season to starting in 66 of the 76 regular season games he played in the 2023-24 campaign. He's remained a fixture in the Mavericks' first unit for all 17 of its playoff matchups.

Jones Jr. is averaging 9.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks, and quieting concerns about his shooting, converting on 39.6% of the 3.1 threes he's taking this postseason.

"I took less money to come here, but the money wasn't the problem," he conveyed. "The money wasn't the issue. I just wanted to have the opportunity to be on the floor and to showcase what I'm able to do, and it happened for me."

The 27-year-old, whose condor-like wingspan stretches 6'11.9," does his best work on the defensive end, where he will serve as a crucial figure in Dallas' attempts to slow down Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

"They're good offensive players," expressed Jones Jr. "Like I said before with all the other series, you just got to keep them from their spots and try to limit them to the shots that they like to take.

"I'm just real happy that we're still playing basketball. I really don't care who we're playing against. I just want to go out there and play and get wins."

The Philadelphia native also shared that over the summer, he nearly signed on to aid Tatum and Brown in their championship pursuit before choosing an opportunity with an easier path to more playing time with the Mavericks.

"It is kind of funny," Jones Jr. said on Sunday. "But I'm just glad I made the decision that I did and (that) I came here."

His decision to bet on himself has paid off and will result in a more lucrative contract than the minimal deal he signed last offseason. It has also gifted him the chance to play on the NBA's brightest stage, showcasing his talents on a playoff run that now stands between the Celtics and Banner 18.

Further Reading

Jayson Tatum Grateful for Second Chance in NBA Finals

Kristaps Porzingis Making Encouraging Progress Toward NBA Finals Return

NBA Finals MVP Odds: Jayson Tatum Front-Runner for Bill Russell Trophy

NBA Finals Betting Lines: Celtics Significant Favorites Over Mavs

Joe Mazzulla Eviscerates Contrived Narrative about Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown

Celtics-Mavericks NBA Finals Has Kyrie Irving Between Boston and Banner 18

Al Horford Returns to NBA Finals Aiming to Add to a Legacy Already Cemented

Jaylen Brown's Evolution Propels Him to Eastern Conference Finals MVP


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Bobby Krivitsky

BOBBY KRIVITSKY

Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.