Why Derrick Jones Jr. of Mavs ineligible for all-NBA defensive teams: ‘It’s crazy’

LOS ANGELES – An emphasis on defense has improved the Mavericks’ fortunes in the second half of the regular season.

Dallas ranked 22nd in defensive rating before the trade deadline, but after acquiring Daniel Gafford and PJ Washington, the team entered the final game of the regular season with the fourth-best defense in the NBA. While most will glance at the midseason trades, veteran swingman Derrick Jones Jr. also had a significant impact on the Mavericks’ defensive end.

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Despite his critical play on defense, Jones is not eligible for any of the league’s All-Defensive NBA teams. Players must play 62 matches of at least 20 minutes. Jones appeared in 48 such games. He had 10 other games where he played between 18 minutes and 19:58. He has played in 76 games this season, well over the 65 game minimum for end-of-season honors.

“It’s crazy, but I mean, it is what it is,” Jones said when asked about the technicalities of the minutes. “I don’t really trip over it. Next year I will get it, if not second (team), then first.”

Jones, who finished the season as Dallas’ full-time starting small forward, often has the responsibility of limiting the other team’s best perimeter scorer. He averaged a career-high 8.6 points with 3.3 rebounds this season while shooting the best 3-point range percentage of his career (34%). His 0.7 steals and blocks per game rating may pale in comparison to most defenders, but Jones prides himself on being an efficient defender in a league full of offensive players.

Jones has played in 76 games this season, well over the 65-game minimum for end-of-season awards. He also averaged 23.5 minutes per game, the highest amount of playing time of his career. It’s one of the main reasons why his ineligibility for either All-Defensive team baffles him.

“That’s why I think it’s so crazy,” Jones added. “I have played more than seventy matches. I think it’s crazy that I don’t qualify. It is what it is, but we always got next year.”

Mavericks guard Dante Exum defended his teammate when asked on Friday, but also reminded that the Mavericks have their sights set on bigger prizes.

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“It’s hard when a man deserves to miss technicalities,” Dante Exum said. “I’ve always said that awards don’t make you. I think we know what we have and he knows how good a defender he is. The reward will be what he can do in the play-offs.”

Jones has playoff experience, so he will be a vital part of Dallas’ hopes of beating the Clippers in Round 3 of their first-round playoff series. He was part of the Miami Heat team that reached the NBA Finals during the 2019-2020 season that ended in the Bubble. He was a reserve for that team, but he has become a fixture in Kidd’s starting lineup this season.

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“He’s been great all year,” Kidd said. “He has taken on the challenge of becoming the best perimeter scorer. …He comes out and does his job at a high level. He’ll have his hands full with this series (against the LA Clippers) because it’s not just one series. They have quite a few there. … We need him to be himself and play the game at a high level.”

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