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Phoenix Suns Sign UNLV Alum Derrick Jones. A Look At Why The NBADL May Need Him.

Recently, the Phoenix Suns signed Derrick Jones with him likely heading to the NBADL. We take a look at why he might be a very important player for the future of the D-League

Prairie View v UNLV Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

On Thursday morning, Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro announced that the Phoenix Suns signed three players to training camp deals. That list of players include overseas veteran Mike Moser, former Tulsa guard Shaquille Harrison and former UNLV forward Derrick Jones. Although that trio will enter Phoenix with hopes of making the final roster, it’ll be very tough as the Suns have 14 players under guaranteed contracts in addition to returning guard John Jenkins.

With the Suns roster being jam-packed, that trio will likely be spending the 2016-17 season with the Northern Arizona Suns. Of course, each part of that trio bring their own individual traits that could allow them to shine in the D-League

In terms of experience, Mike Moser stands at the top of the heap. Unlike Harrison and Jones, Moser has professional experience after spending the last two seasons playing in Europe. For example, Moser spent last season with Hapoel Unet Holon in the top-tier league in Israel. In that lone season, Moser stood as one of the team’s top players, as he averaged 11.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game on 41% from the field.

Whether it’s with the Hapoel Unet Holon or any other team that he’s played for, Moser shows himself as a solid offensive player. On that end of the court, Moser exhibits an ability to score in a multitude of ways which include: a jumper that spreads out to beyond the arc, on-ball cutting and work as an offensive rebounder. In regards to that rebounding, Moser shined by averaging 2.1 offensive rebounds per game.

When it comes to Shaquille Harrison, we actually covered the former Tulsa guard in an August piece when he was participating in the D-League National Tryout. In that piece, we said the following:

Although both Harrison and Moser stand as solid future D-Leaguers, former UNLV forward Derrick Jones still stands as the most intriguing player of that trio. That intrigue is mainly due to two separate factors: age and athleticism.

If he does make his way to the D-League, Jones would be one of the youngest players in the NBADL, as he wouldn’t turn 20 until next February. That youth is due to Jones only spending one season at UNLV, as he decided to declare for the draft after concerns about his academic eligibility. Due to how young he is, it would be safe to assume Jones still has a ton of time to progress as a player.

In that process of progressing as an all-around player, Jones could still shine due to his incredible athleticism. Despite having an extremely raw all-around game, Jones was still able to impress at UNLV due to his insane athleticism. That athleticism is seen through his quickness, explosiveness and just the sheer amount of hops that he possess. Those traits have allowed Jones to be a huge star in the YouTube mixtape community.

Looking away from those incredible slams (as hard as it might be), Jones was able to harness that athleticism in other different areas. The biggest benefit of that athleticism is him being extremely efficient from inside the paint. According to Hoop-Math, Jones shot an efficient 73% from inside the paint. That average was more efficient than 2016 lottery picks Brandon Ingram (59%) and Marquese Chriss (69%).

Another way that Jones could harnasses that athleticism is on the defensive end. The reason that I say possibly is due to Jones not really being a fundamentally sound defensive player. During his lone season with UNLV, Jones averaged 5.2 fouls per 40 minutes, the 3rd highest average in the Mountain West. Those struggles were mainly due to Jones always seeming to be a step or two behind on the defensive end.

However, Jones still has potential to eventually become a solid defensive player due to his athleticism and solid frame. Standing 6’7 with a 7-foot wingspan, Jones has the perfect frame that would allow him to defend multiple positions. That claim is backed up by Jones averaging 2.2 blocks per 40 minutes, the 5th highest average in the Mountain West.

As Derrick Jones embarks on a likely journey to the NBADL, he might actually stand as one of the most important players that the D-League has ever seen. While that’s an incredibly bold statement, Jones kind of exemplifies the ideal prospect that the D-League has always been looking for. As previously mentioned, Jones has incredible athleticism and a pretty solid frame, but is still raw as an actual basketball player. Currently, Jones neither has a versatile offensive skill set or a real great feel for the game on the defensive end.

That’s why his upcoming stint in the D-League is so important. Jones currently stands as a player that’s a major work in progress and needs a great deal of refinement on both ends of the game. That developmental process is probably going to be an extremely grueling journey for both Jones and the Suns, but the possible end product might really worth it. If Jones can combine those insane physical gifts with a solid offensive game, then he could very likely find himself in the NBA.

That journey to the NBA could allow Jones to be one of the best stories in D-League history. Over the years, the D-League have seen a multitude of solid call-ups since its inception, the NBADL hasn’t seen anybody that was as young and raw as Jones. If Jones is able to use the D-League to make that evolution from being a raw physical specimen to a solid NBA player, it could be very beneficial for the future of the D-League.

Success stories like Jones could allow young prospects in the future to see the NBADL as a viable alternative towards college or overseas. In addition to those players actually getting money, those players would be confident that they’d be able to use the D-leagueto evolve their all-around games.

Although we’re still uncertain how Jones’ D-League development turns out, there’s no question that it will be one of the most intriguing stories to watch in the upcoming D-League season.