Mavericks Eager for Naji Marshall to Bring 'Toughness' as Derrick Jones Jr. Replacement

The Dallas Mavericks seek Naji Marshall to bring an edge to the team after bringing him in to replace Derrick Jones Jr. who deprated to sign with the LA Clippers.
Apr 27, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans Forward Naji Marshall (8) handles the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunde during the second quarter of game three of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 27, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans Forward Naji Marshall (8) handles the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunde during the second quarter of game three of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports / Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
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After reaching the NBA Finals, the Dallas Mavericks made a series of roster moves to solidify the supporting cast around Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. The addition that's rightfully garnered the most attention is Klay Thompson, but Naji Marshall will fill a vital role in replacing Derrick Jones Jr., who signed with the LA Clippers in free agency.

The Mavericks see similarities in the toughness that Jones brought with what they're gaining by adding Marshall into the mix—Mavericks vice president of basketball operations Michael Finley not only made that comparison but even expressed a belief that Marshall can guard all five positions if he's needed to do so.

“Naji brings a toughness, similar to what Derrick Jones brought to us,” Finley said. “He has the ability to guard one through five if need be, and he has a desire to get better.”

Naji Marshall, New Orleans Pelicans
Apr 27, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans Forward Naji Marshall (8) handles the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunde during the second quarter of game three of the first round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports / Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Nicknamed "the knife," Marshall brings an edge to any team he plays for with his tenacious defensive mentality. He's not as quick as Jones, but at 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, he brings a bigger frame and more strength to handle bigger wings that Jones did not.

“That’s kind of my MO, toughness on defense,” Marshall said. “It’s one of the things I bring to the game and something I love to do. … That’s what [the Mavericks] got this year. I’m going to pick up whatever slack they lost or add to.”

After spending four seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans, Marshall views the Mavericks as an opportunity for his skill set to be enhanced. He averaged 7.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 19.0 minutes per game last season. He was coming off a career year, but saw a reduction in playing time by 4.3 minutes per game.

“Just my overall game, to get better on the defensive end and the offensive end,” Marshall said. “Any way I can get better, make the game easier, and soak up knowledge.”

The Mavericks view Marshall as someone willing to make hustle plays and do the little things required to win games. Considering the team lost a player in Jones who became a fan-favorite for his one-liners about taking on the toughest assignments, Marshall will eagerly fill that void.

"He's going to do whatever it takes to win ball games," Finley said. "And that's one of the things that really attracted us to the young man. I'm looking forward to see him take on those challenges night in and night out. I know that if he continues to do that, that the sky's the limit for him."

With Thompson projected to enter the season as a starter next to Doncic and Irving, Marshall will have an opportunity to begin the season in an important bench role. It's a unit that could enable him to showcase more of his talent as a playmaker than as a starter next to superstars.

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Grant Afseth

GRANT AFSETH

Grant Afseth is a Dallas Mavericks reporter for MavericksGameday.com and an NBA reporter for NBA Analysis Network. He previously covered the Indiana Pacers and NBA for CNHI's Kokomo Tribune and various NBA teams for USA TODAY Sports Media Group. Follow him on Twitter (@grantafseth), Facebook (@grantgafseth), and YouTube (@grantafseth). You can reach Grant at grantafseth35@gmail.com.