3 reasons Derrick Jones Jr. is a dark horse starter for the Mavericks

Sep 29, 2023; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) poses for a photo
Sep 29, 2023; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks forward Derrick Jones Jr. (55) poses for a photo / Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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2. Defensive capabilities

With a 7-foot wingspan and 6-foot-7 frame, it's easy to see how the former Slam Dunk Champion in Derrick Jones Jr. has been able to be a ball-hawking one-on-one defender on the wing throughout his career. Jones Jr. has great defensive intangibles and is great at being timely with his hands on defense.

His athleticism makes him a serviceable help and switch defender as well, as Jones Jr. is routinely able to break up pick-and-roll actions as the help defender due to his uncanny ability to cover so much ground.

Jones Jr. doesn't have the most muscular frame compared to the likes of Dante Exum or Josh Green, both other candidates to grasp Dallas' final starting spot come opening night, but he's taller than both of them and just as light on his feet defensively as both of them.

Jones Jr.'s length makes him a pestering force as an off-ball defender as he's already showcased his ability to pick passing lanes early on, which segued into some easy transition offense for Dallas in their first few preseason games.

Jones Jr. is a persistent force on defense, never giving up on a play even if he initially gets beat, and he has some of the best recovery defense in the league because of his verticality. He'll inevitably get beat for not having enough muscle, but otherwise, Jones Jr. might be one of the better defenders on the team.

The writing is on the wall for Jones Jr. to be optimized in the Mavericks' switch-heavy scheme this upcoming season, so only time will tell if his lack of strength or inconsistencies on offense force Jason Kidd's hand in terms of deferring to Exum or Green to be the primary defensive wing in the starting lineup.