The Phoenix Suns ran rampant on the Golden State Warriors and Baynes starred to the tune of 24 points on 50% shooting, including two three-pointers, 13 rebounds, a career high seven assists and three blocks.
Baynes has had big games in the past, with career highs in points and rebounds at 26 and 17 respectively, but he hasn’t put them together along with the assists and blocks before. Additionally, this game marked the first time in his career he has scored 10 or more points in four straight contests.
Baynes played 28 minutes against the Warriors. With Ayton out for another 21 games, we can expect to see more of the same from the Aussie big man. At this stage of the season, the Warriors have been the worst defence in the league. We likely won’t see Baynes averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds, but he is slated for a significant role until Ayton returns. Backup big Frank Kaminsky only played 17 minutes and missed all six of his shots, following a poor outing against the Utah Jazz. So as long as Baynes stays hot, he will get as much playing time as he can handle.
Advanced numbers suggest the Suns are much better on both ends of the floor with Baynes on the court than off. According to Basketball Reference, the Suns have an offensive rating of 134 points per 100 possession when Baynes is on the floor. For comparison, the Houston Rockets currently lead the league with a rating of 118, and they just beat the Washington Wizards in the third highest scoring regulation game of all time 159-158.
On the other end of the floor, the Suns’ defensive rating is 100 points per 100 possessions, which is equivalent to the eighth-ranked Toronto Raptors. Additionally, Baynes leads the Suns in both Win Shares (an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player) with 0.7 and Box Plus Minus (an estimate of the points scored and conceded per 100 possessions contributed above a league average player) with 10.1. Baynes is vital to the Suns’ recent success. The four games were a small sample size, however his play and the supporting numbers are nothing but positive so far.
The next 21 games will be the most interesting of Baynes’ NBA career. He’s finally a full-time starter, and so far he is showing he is more than capable. In all likelihood Baynes will shift back to the bench when Ayton returns.
Should Baynes and the Suns keep this up, the inevitable question will be asked: are the Suns better off with Baynes manning the middle? Ayton was very good in his lone appearance this year, however the Suns are drastically improved over last season and Baynes is playing no small role in their current success.