It’s no secret that Derrick Jones Jr. has fallen slightly short of expectations since arriving in Portland. But since acquiring Norman Powell at the deadline, his minutes have been regressing at a rapid rate. However, since transitioning away from the Portland Trail Blazers’ defense is in a concerning state.
Portland Trail Blazers: Derrick Jones Jr. must see more minutes
In my opinion, the three-guard lineup is holding this team back despite Powell being an elite defender for his size. The obvious argument is that the lack of size will create many problems, especially in half-court situations. As it currently stands, that issue will really come to life in the playoffs, with a potential pairing against the Los Angeles Clippers waiting in the wings. Assigning CJ McCollum and Norm to the likes of two 6’8″ wing players in former Blazer Nicolas Batum and all-star Paul George is not realistic.
Benching Derrick all together is an unwise move by coach Terry Stotts that could have serious ramifications for him long term. When the front office brought in DJJ on a two-year 18-million dollar deal, they did it with the expectations that he would be a starter for all 72-games.
His reaction to the whole situation in his post-game interview made the situation more concerning rather than less.
“It wasn’t about not playing him at all,” Stotts said. “It was getting Rondae [Hollis-Jefferson] into the starting line-up, providing him some energy. We’ve got him for ten more days and I thought it was a good match-up for him.”
This assessment makes it incredibly unclear whether he will continue to utilize him, let alone bring him back into the starting line-up. He appeared to be rather unwilling to elaborate on the issue when further questioned about the issue.
“Well I’m not going to disperage Derrick I just thought it was the best move for the team at this point,” Stotts said.
This decision shocked many in the Trail Blazers media circle, including Jason Quick of the Athletic.
At this point, the strange decision-making by the long-time head coach could result in a firing come this summer. Especially if he gives the fan base the lack of usage of Derrick as a rallying cry for the fanbase to express their desire to see him gone.
For now, he needs to not panic and readjust the starting line-up to where it was before the trade deadline. Should he not a team that ranks 25th in points per game allowed may find a way to drop further in that category, and with it, the team’s place in the standings.
Jones comes with all the right intangibles to be an elite perimeter defender in an age where many teams live and die by the three. It is necessary to develop into a formidable defender for a Rip City squad that has ranked towards the bottom defensively consistently. Should he return to the starting line-up Blazers, fans can hope for a better defense than the one they’ve seen the last few games.