The Trail Blazers have arrived at the midpoint of the season with a 21-14 record. Damian Lillard, and his MVP-level production, have rightfully captured the lion’s share of the headlines coming out of Portland. Before circling back to Lillard, Blazer’s Edge associate editor Steve Dewald is working through a list of midseason awards while the All-Star break unfolds.
Today’s award looks at the best newcomer on the Trail Blazers’ roster. In a tight race between two veteran forwards, Steve—by the narrowest of margins—gave the edge to Derrick Jones Jr.
Blazer’s Edge Midseason Awards | Best Newcomer
Derrick Jones Jr. | F
PTS: 8.1 | REB: 4.8 | BLK: 1.1 | FG%: 50.5 | 3P%: 33.3
Jones, who arrived in Portland via a free-agent deal in the 2020 offseason, has provided consistent production on both ends of the floor. Don’t let his pedestrian statistical output fool you, the former Heat forward has established himself as the most reliable frontcourt starter not named Enes Kanter (don’t worry Kanter fans, you might see the big fella later on in the BE awards process).
Tasked with gliding from baseline to baseline on offense and operating as the tip of the spear on defense, Jones has become a linchpin in coach Terry Stotts’ system. As a starter, Jones has upped his three-point attempts and his efficiency is also clocking in at a career-best 33.3 percent.
Outside of his statistical output, Jones has produced one of the most memorable non-Dame moments of the season thus far. In an early-January outing against the Bulls, Jones soared through the air for this finish (Otto Porter seals it with that face):
Jones’ mix of consistency and highlight-worthy athleticism did just enough to put him past Robert Covington in this category. Another factor that impacted this decision: the expectations that came with the acquisition of Covington. Yes. the Blazers utilized a hefty chunk of their offseason flexibility to obtain Jones’ services, but it is nowhere near the two first-round picks that Portland dished out to land Covington. Looking at the numbers, it is important to note that Covington is averaging a single-digit point total for the first time since his rookie season and he is shooting well-below 40 percent from the field.
Enough about Covington, though. Jones is positioned for big things in the second half of the season—especially with Jusuf Nurkic due to return to the lineup. Look for Nurkic to find Jones ascending from the dunker’s spot down the stretch of the season.
Agree with Steve? At the midseason mark, who would you give the best newcomer award to? Tell us in the comments below.