Derrick Jones Jr. has exercised the player option on the second of year of his contract with the Trail Blazers, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Jones signed a two-year, $18.9 million deal with Portland last November worth the full mid-level exception.
He began his debut campaign with the Blazers as a starter at forward, on the floor for tipoff every game he was healthy until Portland added Norman Powell at the trade deadline in late March. Jones didn't just lose his starting spot, though. He'd quickly fall out of the rotation altogether by late April, too, a controversial decision by Terry Stotts that coincided with the beginning of the Blazers' season-saving win streak entering the playoffs.
Jones appeared in just two games during Portland's disappointing first-round loss to the Denver Nuggets, totaling just over 10 minutes of playing time—an especially damning indictment of his potential impact due to the Blazers' wholesale struggles defensively.
Jones picking up his player option for 2021-22 comes as no surprise. Once Portland rang off 10 wins in 12 games with Jones on the bench to finish the season, the months-long assumption that he'd be unable to find a raise on the open market in free agency was essentially confirmed.
The Blazers, obviously, would've been better off using the mid-level exception—the only time it's been available in the Damian Lillard era—on a true impact player. Jones' lack of shooting range and inability to make plays in space with the ball made him an offensive liability last season, and he didn't do enough on the other end to compensate despite impressive rates of blocks and steals.
But Jones is a better on-paper fit playing for Chauncey Billups than Stotts, the former of whom plans to deploy more switch-heavy lineups that take advantage of Jones' length, explosiveness and versatility defensively. Still, his presence on the roster could be most useful as salary ballast in potential trades this summer.
If Jones hadn't opted in, the cash-strapped Blazers would have been absent an expendable mid-sized salary that could help them initiate a blockbuster trade around C.J. McCollum. At just 24 years old, Jones theoretically possesses some room to grow as a shooter and decision-maker that could prompt forward-needy teams to call Portland about a smaller trade for him, too.