Onward, ever onward we march through the D-League, profiling players you may see at this year's Summer Leagues and potentially in the NBA next year. Since we've already covered players from the Colorado 14ers and the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, let's continue through the Southwest Division, starting with the Austin Toros and more specifically, Dwayne Jones.
Jones is a 6'10", 250 pound center with a lot of athleticism and good rebounding instincts, but not a ton of offensive skill. Don't worry, though - this profile ends up much more positively than Kentrell Gransberry's.
How he got here
Jones was part of the 2004 St. Joseph's University team, along with current NBA players Jameer Nelson and Delonte West, that went undefeated during the regular season before losing in the Atlantic 10 tournament and again in the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight round. The following year Jones had an 11 point-11 rebound-10 block triple-double against St. Bonaventure and declared for the NBA draft, but he was considered extremely raw offensively and ended up not being drafted.
Jones signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves as a free agent in 2005 and was assigned to the D-League's Florida Flame a few times that season. There he averaged nine points and just over 11 and a half rebounds, along with two blocks. His free-throw percentage wasn't great at 64.5 percent, but believe it or not that's about as good as it's gotten so far with him.
Jones was then traded to the Boston Celtics that also sent Wally Szczerbiak and Michael Olowokandi to Boston in exchance for Ricky Davis and some other random guys. Yes, I spelled both Szczerbiak and Olowokandi without having to look them up. And yes, Ricky Davis for Wally Szczerbiak was considered a trade of consequence at one time. Let's all be thankful those days are behind us. Jones got a call-up in Boston (what, was Olowokandi not doing very well?) and appeared in 14 games, and registered back-to-back double-digit rebound performances in his last two games there.
The next season Jones was traded again, this time to Cleveland in exchange for Luke Jackson. Jones appeared in only four games for the Cavaliers, never playing more than six minutes. Towards the end of the season he was assigned to the Albuquerque Thunderbirds for two games, where he showed his rebounding ability once more and had 12 combined blocks in those two games, including eight against the Idaho Stampede. Cleveland brought him back for the 2007-2008 season, and Jones averaged two and a half rebounds in 56 games, though his playing time and corresponding performance was all over the place. Jones would collect ten rebounds in 24 minutes one night then only play five minutes the next. Thanks, Reigning NBA Coach of the Year Mike Brown! Jones's best game that season came against the New Jersey Nets, when he had nine points and 12 rebounds, eight of which came on the offensive end.
Cleveland didn't retain him, though, and Jones signed a preseason contract with the Orlando Magic for the 2008-2009 season, though he didn't stick with the team and briefly played in Turkey. The Charlotte Bobcats signed him in November though (have you noticed how a lot of the player's I've looked at so far have gone through Charlotte at some point?), and he appeared in six games for them, averaging two points and two rebounds. Charlotte waived him not long after to make room for Juwan Howard, and I'm sure we remember all the championships Howard brought to that franchise. (Gotta love veteran prowess -- Scott)
Jones then signed a contract with the D-League and was picked up by the Iowa Energy. We'll take a look at his D-League season after the jump.
Dwayne Jones played for three different D-League teams this season. Iowa traded him after playing in only one game, to the Idaho Stampede. In Idaho he moved into the starting lineup, both as a center and as a power forward alongside Lance Allred. Jones averaged 13 and a half points and 10 rebounds per game, and had two really solid games - 25 points (including shooting 9-10 from the free throw line), 13 rebounds and three blocks against Colorado on January 23 and 31 points and 16 rebounds against Tulsa on February 7.
Jones was traded again, though, this time to the Austin Toros for Mohammed Abukar. Jones had a rocky start in Austin, and started March with a two-point, three-rebound performance against Colorado. After that, though, it was full steam ahead for Jones, and he was named D-League Performer of the Week for games like the one on March 13, when he scored 33 points and grabbed 23 rebounds against Tulsa. Jones finished the season strong, and depending on whether you use per-game or per-minute metrics, he was either the best or second-best rebounder in the D-League among guys who played more than 15 games. He was also the best offensive rebounder.
I really like Dwayne Jones, if you couldn't tell. A lot of what was said about him coming out of college still holds - the post move he was working on towards the end of this season would be his first, and his free throw shooting leaves a lot to be desired. One of the things I like about him, though, is that he's clearly trying to improve on his weaknesses. He shoots free throws during second-half warm-ups and the awkward sweeping hook shot is coming along, however slowly. Jones also has great rebounding instincts, particularly on the offensive end where he gets a crazy amount of tip-ins and put-backs. He can also block shots and over the course of the season developed into a solid one-on-one defender, though he still gets in the occasional foul trouble.
Jones absolutely should get an NBA look next year, as he really can help a team that doesn't need a lot of offense from the guy in the middle (Denver, Portland, San Antonio, I'm looking in your directions).