NBA free agency won’t begin in full force until after the draft, but the rumor mill is picking up. Since the 2020 off-season began, the Atlanta Hawks have been linked to potential pursuits of Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans and Denver Nuggets forward Jerami Grant. On Thursday morning, another name was added to the list, with Shams Charania of The Athletic reporting that the Hawks are “expected to express interest” in Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. when the bidding war begins.
Charania describes Jones Jr. as “a sought-after unrestricted free agent” and, given his age (23), it makes sense that many teams would be interested. At this stage, the 6’6 forward is perhaps best-known for his exploits as a dunker — including a 2020 win in the dunk contest at All-Star weekend — but Jones Jr. hits the unrestricted market at a (very) young age and he has an intriguing skill set.
Jones Jr. is a tremendous defensive player, using his athleticism and length to cause havoc. While he is slight in build, Jones Jr. has been effective at guarding multiple positions and, because he is an explosive vertical athlete, the Heat experimented with him almost in the role of a big man offensively, rolling to the rim to create space for shooters.
It should be noted that Jones Jr. is not a perimeter marksman, shooting just 28 percent from three-point range in his four-year career. Still, the Hawks have enjoyed success in helping young players to expand their range and, even if Jones Jr. doesn’t develop into a three-point threat, he could provide value in a bench role as a defense-first, highly athletic contributor.
At this early stage, there isn’t a lot to go on with regard to the kind of contract that Jones Jr. could command this off-season, though Charania does report that teams like the Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers could also be interested. At a certain financial point, it wouldn’t make sense to bring Jones Jr. to Atlanta but, for the right price, he would make a lot of sense.