Is it time the Miami Heat utilized more of Derrick Jones Jr. skill set besides his elite defense and finishing above the rim? At his young age Jones Jr. leads in the NBA with a transition PPP (points per possession) of 1.51 among qualifying players (minimum 50 possessions). He also trails only Jimmy Butler (2.81) on the Heat with an assist/turnover ratio of 2.11 (minimim 40 games).
Jones Jr. is a terror on the open court when out in transition with a PPP of 1.51, which is tops among 238 players having 50 possessions or more. Surprisingly Duncan Robinson is fourth with a PPP of 1.45 and Jimmy Butler tenth at a PPP of 1.40. That gives the Heat three players with percentile rankings greater than 90 in transition
Robinson ranks third in EFG% with a mark of 79%, while Jones Jr. ranks fifth (tied with Bam Adebayo) in “and one freq,” at 8%. Just as a comparison with other players known for their transition acumen, Giannis Antetokounmpo has a PPP of 1.12, Russell Westbrook 1.02, James Harden 1.07, LeBron James 1.13.
For instance running more transition plays could be an option since Miami leads the NBA in that category, 100 percentile and 1.19 PPP, yet employs them at the third lowest rate, 13.2%. Only two teams top 20% in transition frequency and both are pretty good: Toronto Raptors 22% and Milwaukee Bucks 21%.
Since Jones Jr. has a low usage rate, his turnover rate in transition is better than the players cited above (TOV freq): Antetokounmpo 13%, Westbrook 17%, Harden 15%, James 23%, Jones Jr. 3%. That leads to mentioning how Jones Jr. improved his AST/TO ratio this season.
The leaders for the Heat so far this season in AST/TO ratio are Jae Crowder 3.25, Butler 2.81, Jones Jr. 2.11, Kendrick Nunn 2.08, Goran Dragic 2.05. Since Adebayo and Nunn aren’t available at this point in time, other players other than them will have to get accustomed to dishing out dimes when needed. To a limited extent Jones Jr. might be one of them. NBA stats provided videos for all 57 of Jones Jr.’s assists this season.
In his fourth NBA season Jones Jr. has hit new highs in several categories: minutes played 24.5, 2P% .670, FT% .779, rebounds 4.2, assists 1.1, steals 1.1, blocks 0.7. What’s notable is that he increased his assists from 37 to 57 this season, while lowering his turnovers from 43 to 27.
While Jones Jr. ballhandling remains a work in progress, he has improved by limiting turnovers and showing good court vision when given a chance. So out of necessity the Heat might work on other aspects of Jones Jr. game other than focusing solely on improving his outside shot. A good place to start would be what he’s shown aptitudes for already, besides dunking: excellence in transition and taking care of the ball.
Being deployed in Orlando gives the Heat an opportunity to dust off some little-used tactics from their bag of tricks. For the Miami Heat, being forced to adjust might lead to some pleasant surprises from Derrick Jones Jr.