It appears that getting a guaranteed contract for the upcoming NBA season has spurred Derrick Jones, Jr. to prove that he belongs on this year’s Miami Heat roster.

On the opening day of free agency, July 1, Jones, Jr. and the Heat chose to renew their relationship that began with a two-way contract six months earlier. In 13 games with the Sioux Falls Skyforce and 14 games (including 8 starts) with the parent club, “Airplane Mode” had plenty of opportunity to make an impact.

Then comes Summer League where three games in the California Classic and three more in Las Vegas is the first litmus test in Jones, Jr.’s third professional season. The reviews on his performance have been glowing.

On average his production has ranked among the top performers from the games in Sacramento against the Kings, Lakers and Warriors. There were signs of improvement on both ends of the floor with 21.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2 steals and 1.3 blocks on 53 percent shooting (42 percent from deep) as the Heat scored 2 wins in that setting, leading the team in scoring along the way.

Miami Summer League Head Coach Eric Glass told the Miami Herald that Derrick Jones, Jr. has been impressive offensively. However, great responsibility has been placed on defensive strides that Jones, Jr. has made.

“DJ's evaluation is on the defensive end. (He took) the challenge against Bagley and just wiped him out. Three straight games he's guarded the best player all three games and he's really, really taken the challenge on these guys.”

The aforementioned Bagley is Marvin Bagley III who was taken by Sacramento with the second pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Three games into Summer League doesn't translate to instant superstardom. Neither do the next three games on Saturday versus New Orleans, Sunday with Charlotte or Tuesday against Utah establish bonafides for Jones, Jr.

It's just a pathway forward to showcase the sharpened skill set that the Heat can utilize next season. Former Skyforce player Rodney McGruder utilized Summer League in a similar fashion to bolster his NBA worthiness.

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