When the Phoenix Suns called up Austin Toros center Dwayne Jones after the injury to Robin Lopez, Suns fans may have been wondering, “Who the heck is this Jones guy?” As the guy who leads coverage of the Toros for the San Antonio Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell, I’m here to let you know what you’re getting.
So who is Dwayne Jones?
Well for starters, Dwayne Jones is a 26-year-old, top-notch D-League player with NBA experience. He has appeared in 80 NBA games so far in his career, mostly with the Cleveland Cavaliers, both the year they faced the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals and the following season. Before that, he was a member of those great early-2000’s St. Joseph’s teams with Jameer Nelson and Delonte West.
“I was on some winning teams. I was on a team that went to the NBA Finals in Cleveland and that was a great experience,” Jones said. “Unfortunately for me, I haven’t been able to stick so far.”
Primarily, Dwayne Jones is a rebound machine. He led the D-League in rebounds and double-doubles during his time in Austin, and it wasn’t anywhere near close. He averaged 16 rebounds per game for the Toros, playing in lineups where he was the only big man on the floor for Austin, similar to how the Orlando Magic use Dwight Howard.
If the 16 rpg don’t impress you enough, here’s this: the next-best rebounder who played at least 30 D-League games this season was Brian Butch, who averaged 11.9 rebounds per game. That’s a difference of over four boards a game.
His 43 double-doubles also led the D-League. Number two on the list? That would be Curtis Stinson with 28 double-doubles (points and assists), followed by Butch with 25. Yep, 15 double-doubles separated Jones from the rest of the pack.
On the scoring side of those double-doubles, Jones averaged 17.6 points per game while not a focal point of the offense for Austin. As the screener on pick-and-roll situations, Jones set solid picks while not normally looked at on the roll.
The majority of his points came from offensive rebounds, where he averaged over six per game, and free throws. Jones doesn’t have a go-to move in the low post, but his knack for drawing fouls is uncanny. I’ve thought before that Jones’ game is perfect for a big man rounding out an NBA team’s bench.
“I’ve always been told just finish strong, run the floor, and do what I can to help the team,” Jones said. “I don’t really have a scorer’s mentality.”
Defensively, Jones will be a similar fit to Lopez. Jones is not a shot blocker, he prefers to play solid position defense and keep his man from getting a good look at the rim. At 6-11 and 250 pounds, Jones has legit NBA size. His long arms will bother his man, though he’ll rarely block their shots.
But while Jones has been with the Toros — who are owned by and run the same system as the San Antonio Spurs — and was in training camp with the Spurs, I doubt he can glean any insight on how to shut down Tim Duncan or contain Manu Ginobili. At least not anything more than what the Suns’ coaching staff already knows after their countless battles with the Spurs in the regular season and the playoffs.
No, to expect Jones to arrive in Phoenix with all the secrets and inside information is to expect too much from him. His addition is rather shallow; there’s not much below the surface. And that’s not necessarily a knock on Jones. There is no unlocking of the puzzle of Dwayne Jones. He will come out every night, work hard on the defensive end and the boards. He’ll set solid screens and play physical on the offensive end.
“It’s good to be able to show that you can do certain things, so I try to do that,” Jones said. “But I don’t want to force anything.”
Any offense he produces will be a bonus for the Suns because it will all come off offensive rebounds or as a last resort. He’ll work hard if and when he gets in the game for Phoenix. And if the bright orange polo shirt he wore on the Toros’ bench during their last game on Saturday is any indication, I’d say he’s excited to be a Sun.
Follow McNeill on Twitter @AAMcNeill.
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