Of all the new Maverick free agents and perhaps even including the rookies, Dahntay Jones may be the guy who flies under the radar. On a team now fairly deep with guards and small forwards, where does Jones fit in?
Jones has never made a huge mark in the NBA, starting only one full season out of ten—his only year in Denver, and also averaging double figures (10.2 ppg) only once while coming off the bench his first in Indiana. He is actually a capable scorer and regarded as quite difficult to guard near the rim as well as being a solid three-point shooter but is generally called upon for his defense.
Reeling from the loss of Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson last year as well as an injury to Delonte West, the Mavericks upgraded on the defensive end significantly this year by adding defensive standout Elton Brand and drafting Bernard James along with younger, quicker guards and a capable defender in the post in Chris Kaman. With more quickness outside and better defense inside, Shawn Marion hopefully won’t have to guard the opponent’s best player all the time. Jones can be a part of sharing the burden.
Chances are since the top 3 rotation players at the SG and SF spot are likely to be Marion, O.J. Mayo and Vince Carter. With Jae Crowder looking like a good possibility to win some rotation time and a number of other capable combo guards, defense may be what gets Jones on the floor.
In a recent interview, Jones said “My game starts with defense. I have a lot of respect for Shawn Marion because I’ve been used the same way he’s used right now—guarding anybody from point guard to small forward and sometimes power forward.”
As it happens, his defensive prowess hasn’t gone unnoticed when the Mavericks have faced him in the past. “We’ve seen how good he’s been defensively against us through the years,” Rick Carlisle said. Acknowledging that the team now has an array of diverse talent, Carlisle added “we expect our depth to be a big asset for us this year.”
It also doesn’t hurt that Jones has improved his three point shooting during his career. In fact, because of that his profile looks a bit similar to one player who made a surprisingly significant impact two years ago—DeShawn Stevenson. While Tyson Chandler patrolled the paint, Stevenson was the team’s best wing defender, playing tough physical defense while dropping in bombs from behind the arch. Rick Carlisle has seen the benefits of that type of player and Jones could fill a similar role, particularly for a team which should be much improved on defense but in the last two years has also lost three of the greatest three-point shooters in NBA history in Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and Peja Stojacovic.
With a slew of younger players and a noticeable effort on defense last year from Vince Carter, along with capable to outstanding defense from the entire team led by Marion, Brand and Delonte West, the Mavericks are expected to apply more full-court pressure this coming season and that also provides more opportunities for Jones.
If these Mavericks are to surprise many by being a great team instead of just a good one, there’s no telling who the x-factors may be; but a little tenacious defense was a huge part of the championship run and will always be a welcome addition.