When the Dallas Mavericks signed Derrick Jones Jr. to a one-year deal in August, the move didn't generate much buzz. It was at the tail-end of free agency and seemed like a move around the margins for the Mavericks to bolster some of their wing depth at the back half of the roster.
Fast forward to us only being a week out from Dallas kicking off regular season action versus San Antonio, and all of a sudden Jones Jr. is in "serious contention" to grab the final spot in the starting lineup for Dallas.
3 reasons Derrick Jones Jr. is a dark horse starter for the Mavericks
There obviously hasn't been a lot that has changed from a fan perspective as only so much can be taken from three preseason games, only two of which Jones Jr. has played in so far, but he must clearly be making an impression on the Dallas coaching staff thus far.
Jones Jr. has been very forthcoming about how excited he is to be in Dallas, and even revealed some intriguing reasons as to why he chose to join the Mavericks in free agency recently.
Jones Jr. is putting in the work early on to cement himself as a key rotation piece in Dallas, but perhaps he could thrust himself into an even bigger role than was assumed for him before training camp and preseason started.
Here are three reasons Derrick Jones Jr. is a dark horse starter for Dallas.
It's no secret that Dallas has some young talent in their frontcourt and on the wing, and Josh Green was the most plausible young player out of that group to make a run at the starting lineup for Dallas.
Heading into training camp with an October 23 deadline set for the Mavericks to extend Josh Green's current contract, it has been relatively assumed that Dallas is moving in lockstep with Green's camp to get a deal done ahead of the deadline.
However, a deal still hasn't fully materialized yet and Green hurt his back during Monday's practice per head coach Jason Kidd.
While the severity of the injury seems to be minimal, we weren't provided with an extensive update in regard to a timetable for the injury. Kidd also mentioned that Jaden Hardy sprained his ankle, which could be very problematic, but again we don't have a timetable to diagnose the severity of the injury.
If Green's injury is worse than something that may just keep him out a couple of practices then it's worth noting that it could potentially affect the Mavericks' willingness to extend his current deal and they may have to look to trade him at that point, even though that's the worst-case scenario. Furthermore, it will almost certainly open up more rotation minutes for other wings and guards in the Mavericks rotation, especially if Hardy is out for an elongated period as well.
Derrick Jones Jr. could be a huge benefactor from injuries to Green and Hardy early on, especially with the incumbent starter at small forward being Green. Jones Jr. will likely predominately play most of his minutes at the two or three for the Mavericks, and if Green remains injured come opening night then Jones Jr. would be the most suitable candidate to start in his place given he has impressed early on in preseason.
The Mavericks have considered starting Jones Jr. outright over Green anyway though, and our next two reasons provide some context as to why they may go in that direction.