'I Always Fight'; Dallas Mavericks Starter Derrick Jones Jr. Continues to Impress

Jones has been instrumental on both sides of the floor in this opening-round series against the Clippers, but his impact was felt the most in Game 5
Jan 11, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA;  Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) reacts
Jan 11, 2024; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) reacts / Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Jones Jr. was a late addition to the Dallas Mavericks, not signing his contract until over a month after free agency started. Even the NBA's official announcement brushed off the signing, referring to him as a former NBA Slam Dunk champion and briefly mentioning his statistics. He wasn't supposed to be a contributor.

All he's done since signing his one-year, minimum contract with Dallas is continue to exceed expectations, a theme of his career thus far.

"I was undrafted, I went into situations where I wasn't supposed to be on the roster or playing," Jones said after Game 5 Wednesday night. "I fought my way into a roster spot and I fought my way into the rotation. I'm (going to) keep fighting until the day I die, that's just who I am. I always fight and I never give up."

Jones was spectacular for the Mavericks in their 123-93 Game 5 over the Clippers, finishing with 12 points, shooting 5/7 from the floor and 2/4 from 3. As he has all season, he made his biggest impact on the defensive end, blocking three shots and holding the player he was guarding to 1/7 shooting from the floor and forcing two turnovers, per NBA.com. He's been the primary defender on Paul George and while George has had his moments, like he did in Game 4, Jones has been making life difficult for him.

READ MORE: Luka Doncic Leads Dallas Mavericks to Game 5 Victory Over Clippers, Lead 3-2 in Series

The Mavericks have welcomed him with open arms. Luka Doncic enjoys having Derrick Jones Jr. around the team and it helps when Jones averaged career-highs with 8.6 PPG and 34.3% shooting from 3 this season. Pair that with his tremendous defensive effort and high-flying athleticism and the Mavericks have someone who is vastly outperforming their contract.

It hasn't been an easy journey for Jones in his NBA career. As he mentioned, he went undrafted after spending one year at UNLV, and battled in the G-League and with the Phoenix Suns before earning his first rotation spot with the Miami Heat in the 2018-19 season. He parlayed his two-way versatility into a 2-year, $18.96 million contract with the Portland Trailblazers in the 2020 offseason but was traded to the Chicago Bulls in the three-team Lauri Markkanen trade.

Jones signed a 2-year, $6.56 million deal to remain with the Bulls in the 2022 offseason but declined his player option to become a free agent in 2023. He took less money to sign with the Dallas Mavericks and has been invaluable and now the organization is hoping they can keep him around long-term this coming offseason.

"When I signed here," Jones also said in that press conference after Game 5, "me and Coach Kidd, our conversation was I was going to have to work for everything I've got and I told Coach Kidd that's not something that's going to bring me down."

He's used to scrapping and clawing for everything he's gotten and he'll have to continue fighting against Paul George on the defensive end if the Mavericks want to close this series out.

Dallas' first chance to close this series out will be Friday at 8:30 p.m. CST at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.

READ MORE: Dallas Mavericks Dominate in Pivotal Game 5 Against Clippers: 3 Game-Changing Plays

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Austin Veazey


Austin Veazey joined NoleGameday as the Lead Basketball Writer in 2019, while contributing as a football writer, and started as editor for MavericksGameday in 2024. Veazey was a Florida State Men’s Basketball Manager from 2016-2019. Follow Austin on Twitter at @EasyVeazeyNG