The Dallas Mavericks opened their wooing of Dirk Nowitzki by spending millions to jump into the first round of the draft for the exact kind of perimeter player he wants -- Dominique Jones, a young guard who can create his own shot.
"When we interviewed him, he said he felt like a cross between Dwyane Wade and (Rodney Stuckey); that sounded pretty good to me," Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, laughing. "We're always trying to surround Dirk with guys who can take the pressure off him."
Nowitzki, the franchise leader in points, rebounds and other key categories, is expected to become a free agent next week but the team is hoping he's only doing that to sign a longer deal to stay. Still, once he's on the market, anything can happen. So they obviously want to keep him happy.
This should help. When asked the day after the Mavericks were bounced from the playoffs what type of player Dallas needed to get, Nowitzki said: "We'd love to get somebody explosive off the dribble, who can create his own shot at any given time."
Nowitzki was thinking of guys like LeBron James or Wade. While they will be free agents next week, too, landing either of them will be a lot tougher.
Mavs president Donnie Nelson was excited to have landed Jones without giving up anything but a pile of team owner Mark Cuban's cash, likely the league maximum $3 million. It would've cost a future first-round pick to get any higher, and Dallas refused because those picks are precious chips that can be used all sorts of ways later this offseason.
"We got really lucky," Nelson said. "We kept our powder dry for bigger things this summer."
Carlisle and Nelson proudly noted that Jones, a 6-foot-5 off guard at South Florida, was the only player in the country who averaged 21 points, six rebounds and three assists last season. He also scored 46 points on the road in the Big East (in overtime against Providence) and had a knack for getting to the free throw line "a lot -- 15, 16, 18 times a game," Carlisle said.
"That's hard to do," Carlisle said, adding that drawing fouls is a skill that "translates extremely well" from the college game to the NBA. "He has the ability to get places with the ball. He's a very resourceful scorer. Toughness and energy are high on our list."
Jones is 6-foot-5 with a wingspan closer to 6-foot-9, which should help on defense, too. He was a first-team All-Big East selection, averaging 21.4 points per game last season.
Jones was just getting used to the idea of competing for playing time in Memphis when he learned he was headed to Dallas. He's excited about being teammates with Jason Kidd and is eager to find his niche in the rotation. He describes his style as big on seeking contact.
"I love it," he said, "because everyone else doesn't."
He also feels a burden to contribute right away.
"If they paid $3 million to get into the first round to get me -- whew!" Jones said. "That means I've got high expectations."
With Jones and last year's top pick Roddy Beaubois, the Mavericks could have their backcourt of the future already in place.
Beaubois is quick, with great leaping ability, a nice touch on 3-pointers and is spending the summer trying to hone his skills as a point guard. Jones is more suited to be a shooting guard, a banger who needs to work on extending his range. They should be somewhat interchangeable, too.
"They supplement each other very well," Nelson said. "They're going to be fast friends."
Only thing is, Jones hasn't heard of Beaubois. Asked about his new teammate, Jones said, "WHO?!" He'll find out very soon, as they will be working together soon in the summer league.
The Mavericks also had the 50th pick. They spent it on Florida State center Solomon Alabi, then sent him to Toronto for a second-rounder in 2013 and cash.