(author's note: here is a next post in the player previews Alan, Andy and I will be doing over the next couple weeks, covering all fifteen players on the Maverick roster.)
For the first time in the past few years, Dallas will (almost certainly) go into the regular season with a full fifteen-man roster. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, other than losing a little bit of flexibility. However, due to the collection of players that have been assembled, the Mavericks have ended up with a bit of a logjam at the guard position. There's Rodrigue Beaubois, who the Mavericks still have high hopes for, and Jared Cunningham, the exciting young rookie trying to make his way in the NBA. There's Delonte West, one of the returning veterans, coupled with a couple new acquisitions trying to bounce back from down years -- Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo.
And yeah, and Dominique Jones.
He's the afterthought of that group. It's not like he isn't talented, or a hard-worker, or intelligent. But for a player heading into his third season in the NBA, he really hasn't made an impression on anyone yet.
Don't get me wrong -- Dojo, as the kids like to shorten his name to, has shown signs. So did the Mavericks, which is why they bought the 25th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft from Memphis.
Here a video Rob Mahoney made early into Jones' rookie season. It's easy to laugh at the glowing praise considering how his career has gone since that point, but Mahoney was not just hyping the kid up for no reason. He has legitimate talent. Just look at his college career for proof for that. He was the unquestioned leader of his team at the University of South Florida, leading the team in scoring all three years, in steals for two, and even in rebounding in 08-09. It was not just empty stats, making big plays and clutch shots all throughout his career.
Jones' game is centered around the drive. Too many players in the NBA fall back to the jump shot when confronted with a physical and tough defense, but Dominique continually attacks his man, the paint, and the rim. He can finish around the rim, but as seen in the video, also has a knack to find the open man at the last moment. When left open, he's a capable jump shooter, though still a weakness. Defense is not elite, but far from a liability.
So why can't Jones stick in a role, even ten or fifteen minutes a night? Looking at the moments and games where he played great, I wondered just this. But only evaluating a player based on his success is ludicrous. Too many times, it doesn't come together. That's why he follows up a 21 point, four assist, one turnover game with a 12 point (15 shots), five assist, five turnover game in the Summer League he was suppose to dominate. When one part of his game is off, he can't fall back on his elite athleticism or jumper to make up for it.
For Dominique's path to become successful, he must do one of two things. He needs an elite skill, which is likely not going to happen. NBA players don't just become more athletic, or drastically increase their jumper to where it doesn't miss. There's room for him to find a calling as a defensive stopper or even as a point guard, too. The other way requires him to be able to bring forth every average skill he has on a nightly basis, not just one or two depending on what day of the week it is. My prediction for this year, though, is more of the same. He'll sit as others get the call in front of him, he'll get valuable practice reps, and hopefully, in a couple years, he can develop enough to stick with a team. I'm not sure that will be the Mavericks, but I wish him well nevertheless.