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Does Derrick Jones, Jr. Belong with the Blazers?

The forward flew sky high and plummeted out of the rotation in Portland. Does he get a redo?

2021 NBA Playoffs - Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers have an interesting trade and free agency period ahead in the summer of 2021. They’ll need to make several decisions regarding their current roster, including how much they value nearly every member thereof.

In preparation for the big summer, Dave Deckard and Dia Miller of the Dave and Dia Podcast are asking each other — and you — whether to “Keep or Yeet” each member of the team.

The concept is pretty much like it sounds. Take one Blazers player. Do you keep him around for next season or show him the door?

Today we look at Derrick Jones, Jr. The 23-year-old small forward was the reigning NBA Slam Dunk Champion when the Blazers signed him from the Miami Heat last November. He averaged a career-high 31.6% from the three-point arc with the Blazers but pretty much everything else went south as his playing time and rotation position vacillated under former Head Coach Terry Stotts. He’s now looking at a $9.7 million player option next season. If he stays under his current contract, the Blazers will have him for one more year. If he declines the option, he’ll become a free agent. Either way, how hard should the Blazers pursue him (or try to trade him if he stays)?

We hasten to point out that voting “Yeet” (colloquially: to toss away with authority, somewhat gleefully) does not mean that Dave and Dia dislike the player, think the player has no talent, or regret the player being a Blazer. There can be a thousand reasons to yeet your resident shooting guard, only some of which have to do with him.

Similarly, voting “Keep” does not indicate that Dave and Dia think the player is perfect, just that the reasons for keeping him outweigh the reasons for letting him go.

Dia: Have I mentioned I hate this game?? I hate this game. You know what I don’t hate? Derrick Jones Jr. I am such a fan. I have loved seeing him flying through the air in a Trail Blazers jersey, and I’ve loved his contributions. That being said, he has sat on the bench a lot. A lot more than I would have sat him if I were the coach. But there’s a part of me that wonders—if he’s not going to play, maybe he should be somewhere that he gets more playing time. And maybe we need someone who is going to get more playing time as well.

Dave: Are the Blazers going to run? Are they? Because if they are, I’m all on board with keeping Jones, Jr. But I’m not convinced that Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic amount to a running squad. Maybe the Blazers can get some fast-break trigger guys off their bench?

If the Blazers remain a halfcourt team, I don’t see a ton of upside in Jones, Jr. here. His shooting is suspect. His per-minute and per-possession stats are anemic. I do have some hope for his defense, but he’s a ways from being a stopper. Aggression will be the key there, but a Lillard-McCollum-Nurkic trio ever going to turn into an aggressively gambling defensive unit?

Dia: I think part of the reason some of these discussions are so difficult is because most of these decisions aren’t black or white. Depending on what a player can get in a trade, or who could be part of a trade package, it might be a game changer. So sadly, I don’t think DJ is off the chopping block here. But man do I want to watch him fly some more.

Dave: You might get your wish! I don’t think his value is super high right now. He has a player option for $9.7 million. Obviously if he can get more—or at least a longer-term deal—somewhere else, it’s going to be out of Portland’s hands. He’ll just leave. There’s also that weird Portland thing where they bid against themselves for so-so players. I can see a nightmare scenario where the Blazers sign him for four years, $16 million per, and call it a bargain. The truth will probably lie in the middle. There’s a decent chance he just picks up that option, tries life under a new coach, and waits for a trade or next summer.

Let’s say the Blazers do move someone in their Core Three, though. I’m not sure that helps out Jones, Jr. much. His position is the likeliest for them to upgrade. Even if they bring back a starter at another position, does that guy have a three-point shot? If he doesn’t, can the Blazers absorb two non-shooters in the upper rotation?

He’s 23 with hops to the moon and room to grow, but I’m seeing the window for him in Portland as narrow and, because of his contract, closing. It might be better for Portland to have that contract as trade ballast than for him just to leave, but I don’t see him fitting long-term.

Dia: I think at this point, I’d keep him. There are a lot of players we have right now that I feel like are going to outplay someone else we may be able to get for them. His contract isn’t huge, and he can make a difference if he’s given the opportunity. I came into this thinking yeet (that word never becomes natural, no matter how many times we do this), but the more we talk about it, the more I’m leaning towards keep.

Dave: I promised myself that if I couldn’t find a clear reason to keep, I’d vote yeet, so that’s what I’m doing. I believe Jones, Jr. has promise and that he’ll come at a reasonable price next year, but I don’t see the waters being un-muddied in Portland for him or the team and I don’t think he stays long-term, so I’m willing to part with him via free agency or trade should the opportunity arise.

What about you, Blazers fans? Are you for keeping Derrick Jones, Jr. or should Airplane Mode find a new hub destination? Weigh in below!

The Tally So Far...

CJ McCollum— Dave and Dia “yeet”

Norman Powell— Dave and Dia “keep”

Robert Covington— Dave and Dia “keep”

Jusuf Nurkic— Dave and Dia “yeet”

Derrick Jones, Jr.— Dia “keep”, Dave “yeet”