REPORT: Derrick Jones Jr. Plans to Pick Up Player Option
Derrick Jones Jr. isn’t going anywhere. At least, that’s what he told NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson.
While the forward can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, he appears set to pick up his player option with the Chicago Bulls. Jones Jr. signed the two-year, $6.5 million contract last offseason and will be locked in for $3.3 million if he decides to stay with the franchise.
Here’s the latest from Johnson:
But Derrick Jones Jr. certainly sounded convincing when he answered “for sure” after being asked if he plans to pick up his $3.3 million player option to return to the Chicago Bulls in 2023-24.
“Like I told Coach (Billy Donovan) and everybody else, I’m locked in for two years. I didn’t sign for two years for no reason. So I’m here for two years. I just gotta sit down with my agent and talk to him, figure things out. But I don’t see why not. I got no other plans, yet.”
Jones Jr. didn’t average as many minutes as he did in his first season in Chicago, but we did watch him appear in a career-high 64 games. The 26-year-old forward remains an explosive athlete whose length and verticality has proven to be quite the valuable tool in small-ball lineups.
He’s averaged 12.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes over his two seasons with the Bulls. Jones Jr. has also shot 51.8 percent fromt he field with 3.1 FTAs per 36 minutes. The lack of shooting in his game will likely continue to put a ceiling on his role moving forward. But Jones Jr. has at least shown that he has the kind of energy, athletcism, and defensive versatility that can come in handy on almost any NBA bench.
With that being the case, I certaintly don’t mind the idea of him returning for another year. Head coach Billy Donovan has increasingly shown that he can put Jones Jr. in a position to succeed – even if that means he isn’t a consistent part of the rotation. Having said that, Jones Jr.’s return would give the Bulls that much less flexibility. And it might also make an important decision for them.
Javonte Green is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. As great as he’s been in spurts for the Bulls, there is no question that he and Jones Jr. tend to fill a similar role. Both are switchable defenders who play bigger than they are and prioritize making hustle plays. Likewise, both are below-average shooters and rely mainly on put-backs and/or hard cuts to impact the offensive end. When we consider the Bulls’ drastic lack of shooting across the roster, it’s hard to imagine they can justify keeping both players on the team.
Of course, we still can’t rule it out completely, but I can’t see a world where it makes sense at this point in time. This is particularly true when we include the fact that keeping Ayo Dosunmu might be a priority for the front office. He’s also been inconsistent as a jumper shooter over his first two seasons. The Bulls simply need to create space for long-range threats, and Green’s roster spot might have to be used to fill that void.
The other option, of course, would be eventually using Jones Jr.’s contract in a trade. Considering the Bulls aren’t in a good position to create much cap space, they’re going to have to get creative to re-shape this roster. Combining Jones Jr.’s $3.6 million with extra salary could be a way to add fresh talent to this team. That isn’t to say the Bulls shouldn’t view him as an asset (he’s a rotation piece on a cheap deal), but everything has to be on the table when it comes to fixing this team.
Anyway, we’ll see if Jones Jr. backs up his words with actions later this summer. You never know if another team can get in his ear or if the Bulls’ direction could give him some hesitation. We’ll see.