Robin Lopez has been quite good for the Phoenix Suns this year, and his health is, in many ways, key to their late-season success. Without Lopez in the lineup, the Suns are a sub-par defensive team forced to rely on Jarron Collins, as Alvin Gentry is now committed to playing Amar’e Stoudemire at his natural position (power forward) as much as possible. Collins is — and this is no exaggeration — far and away the worst starting center in the league, and the only alternative would be to give more minutes to Channing Frye.
Frye’s already playing pretty significant minutes on most nights, and the problem with giving him more playing time is that doing so is, by extension, giving the Suns opponents more layup attempts and rebounds. According to Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside, the latter (at least) is about to be remedied: the Suns have signed rebounding machine Dwayne Jones of the Austin Toros to help fill out their center rotation.
Jones isn’t likely to jump head-first into significant playing time, but I’m optimistic that if given a chance to play, he’ll produce. He’s the best rebounder the D-League has to offer, and his biggest weakness (a complete lack of offensive moves) happens to be well-remedied by Steve Nash’s passing and the Suns’ pace. Jones is an athlete perfectly suited for an up-and-down game, and if given the chance, he’ll rebound and finish well even against NBA competition.
It’s not entirely certain he’ll actually get that chance, though. Phoenix picked Jones out of all the fish in the sea, but it’s possible that the Suns’ sole motivation in signing him was to fill out the roster and provide a back-up plan should Lopez’s injury be worse than anticipated. Despite the fact that Jones could make a legitimate difference on a team that has a place (and minutes) for Jarron Collins, he could very well be filed away as Plan Z and practice fodder.
There’s no use in judging the Suns or Jones either way until we see the team’s plans unfold, but part of me can’t help but worry that Jones’ long-awaited call-up may not be as fruitful as it could have been.