Unsung playoff hero reiterates why Warriors must hit on free agency deals

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The Golden State Warriors have lacked the financial freedom to make huge free agency splashes over recent seasons, with the acquisitions of Dario Saric and Cory Joseph culminating as an underwhelming result from last year's period.

Yet despite the financial restrictions, it's not impossible to identify a key role player that can fit a team's system on minimum money. At this point of the playoffs it's often those pieces that can prove the difference as respective stars often equalize each other's impact.

The impact of Derrick Jones Jr. at the Dallas Mavericks is a reminder of the Golden State Warriors' need to hit on minimum free agents

As somewhat of a journeyman across his first seven seasons in the league, Derrick Jones Jr. appeared on the NBA scrapheap when he remained a free agent in August last year. The Dallas Mavericks eventually provided him an opportunity on a one-year, $2.7 million contract -- a calculated deal that's now reaping benefit than could have ever been expected.

While all the attention was on the superstar battle of Luka Doncic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jones proved an unheralded hero and a vital piece in the Mavericks moving ahead to the Western Conference Finals on Saturday.

After a slow start to the series, Jones began to capitalize on the attention shown to Doncic and Kyrie Irving, delivering back-to-back 17 and 19-point performances in Games 4 and 5 on a combined 14-of-23 shooting.

The athletic forward took another step in Game 6 though, with his 23 points (8-of-13 shooting, 4-of-6 from three-point range) helping Dallas back from a 17-point deficit to close out the series and advance.

While Gilgeous-Alexander was largely impressive for the Thunder, the fact Jones was his primary defender is another showcase of his value to the Mavericks that belies his contract. He'll now likely see similar importance in the Conference Finals guarding either Jamal Murray or Anthony Edwards depending on the result of Game 7 between the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Warriors know what this sort of value looks like, having had Otto Porter Jr. on a minimum contract in their championship season two years ago. Their free agency acquisitions failed to have late-season impact this time around though, and the franchise shouldn't avoid criticism if they fail to rectify that this offseason.