Miami Heat: Why “Airplane Mode” Derrick Jones Jr. is the future

Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. (5) reacts after a play in the second quarter of an NBA basketball regular season game against the Orlando Magic (David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. (5) reacts after a play in the second quarter of an NBA basketball regular season game against the Orlando Magic (David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) /

Derrick Jones Jr., the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Contest champ, has emerged for the Miami Heat. Where does he fit into the team’s long-term plans though?

This is a Miami Heat story, but we must first set things up. If you will take a walk with us down the proverbial NBA memory lane, we will begin to paint a picture.

Before the newly formed Brooklyn Nets had claimed both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency, the Golden State Warriors was the home of the University of Texas alumn and on top of the NBA world.  If it wasn’t for Durant’s ruptured Achilles tendon, the Warriors would’ve probably been the first team to three-peat since the Lakers back in 2000.

The reason for this Durant intro is to remind us that during those back to back title runs, he was the best basketball player in the whole league. If you ask me, no it’s not even arguable, he was because he simply dominated in those two years.

Derrick Jones Jr. isn’t at Durant’s level and unfortunately, is not even close.  However, he does share something of a similarity to the dominant force that is the former No. 35 for the Golden State Warriors. What he does on a night to night basis by simply being in the spots or lanes that he is, has an impact that can serve to totally swing games because defenses and defenders must deviate towards him at all times, or simply risked being embarrassed and dunked on.

The spark off the bench that is Airplane Mode just goes to show us that there is more to the actual player the league sees as a high flying stretch four.  Even after his dominant performance in the NBA Slam Dunk contest, his name still seems like sort of an afterthought outside of the Miami fanbase.

It all starts with his build and his length as an attacker and defensive threat.  Standing 6-feet-7 with a 7-foot wingspan, with length being an essential characteristic among the most successful forwards in the league, Jones Jr. is becoming a primal defensive focus point for the Heats second unit.

Averaging 8.6 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per game, a slight bump from last year seven points and four rebounds per, he has seemingly acknowledged that his presence is best suited as a player off the bench for the moment. However, he has been apart of the units that have seemed most adept at providing the defensive prowl that the Miami Heat seem to be lacking as a whole as of late.

With signs of potential statistical outbursts there, his 12 rebounds back in mid-January against the San Antonio Spurs and his 25 point and 9 rebounds performance in early February against the Los Angeles Clippers for example, he has the makings of a blueprint for success within this organization.

Every team has a Derrick Jones Jr. but it takes a system, no, more like a culture to mold his athleticism and attributes into something more than just a run and dunk athlete. It takes a certain something from an organization to pull out of him that extra little something that could be the missing link on a playoff team.

So how can the Miami Heat further integrate what Jones Jr. brings to the table?  Well, as it currently stands, they desperately need his defense more than ever so they will continue to heavily deploy him from that aspect.

In the long run, his best formula will look like equal mixtures of defense and shooting with a few highlight dunks per night thrown in. He basically has all the tools of a traditional 3 and D guy and should continue to be able to thrive in such a role, where the thing that will separate him will be the elite athleticism usually reserved for star to superstar players.

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Within the Miami Heat’s system, there is no limit to what Derrick Jones Jr. can ultimately become. If he continues to work on his spot-up shooting in the offseason, while continuing to perfect his handle, he has another few levels he could stand to jump. Only time will tell, but if anybody can pull star ability out of a guy, it’s the Heat. That is why I believe that he is the future of the Miami Heat.