Dwayne Jones was technically a part of the trade that sent Hedo Turkoglu to Phoenix and Leandro Barbosa to Toronto, though you probably wouldn’t know it. Jones’ career thus far has consisted of bench-riding and D-League excellence, and his inclusion in the Suns-Raps deal was merely a salary-matching formality. Toronto waived him soon after, and Jones’ basketball future has been up in the air since.
However, according to the Arizona Republic, the Suns have signed — or is it re-signed? — Jones for the ’10-’11 season. It’s fair to assume that Jones’ deal is likely for a salary close to the league minimum.
Phoenix originally signed Jones back in April, and although the Suns have undergone plenty of roster changes since that time (including waving buh-bye to Amar’e Stoudemire), Jones’ role should remain more or less the same: end-of-the-bench big, practice body, stop-gap rebounder. If Jones ends up playing significant minutes for Phoenix, something along the way went horribly wrong (somebody isn’t playing up to expectation, an injury bug has claimed multiple Phoenix bigs, etc.).
That isn’t to say that Jones isn’t useful. If given the opportunity, he’d likely do good work on the glass in the NBA, although the rest of his overall game still needs work. However, as I noted before, odds are that in the upcoming season, we won’t get to see how Jones stacks up against other NBA bigs. Definitely a bummer, but probably for the best, as Phoenix has a number of other candidates ready to fill in minutes at both the 4 and the 5.
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.
UPDATE 2/24 3:55 am: According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Mavs worked out Jones only to say “Thanks, but no thanks.” Dallas could sign training camper Jake Voskuhl in Jones’ place, as the Mavs continue to look for depth at center while Erick Dampier sits due to injury.
2/23 3:15 pm: With Erick Dampier out the Mavericks need a little size up front, so they are going after one of the D-League’s top rebounders.
Dwayne Jones is getting an audition and a 10-day contract with Dallas. If that name sounds a little familiar, he is the 6’11” center out of St. Josephs who has had stints in Boston, Cleveland and Charlotte.
Jones has been tearing up the D-League this year for the Austin Toros. He’s coming to the Mavericks to defend and rebound, and he has averaged 15.4 rebounds per game. He’s not known for his offensive game, but he has been a force at the D-League level, scoring 16 a game on 61 percent shooting. But any points Dallas gets out of him will be simply gravy, they need the rebounds off the bench behind Brendan Haywood.