The Detroit Pistons were busy during the recent trade period, pulling off two transactions that saw them lauded as one of the deadline winners.
But how will their recent moves affect Aron Baynes?
Detroit Pistons get: Tobias Harris
Orlando Magic get: Brandon Jennings; Ersan Ilyasova
This was an interesting trade. Detroit received the biggest talent of the deal in Tobias Harris, but lost their only competent backup point guard in Brandon Jennings.
Detroit’s bench floundered mightily during Jennings’ absence at the start of the season, becoming the worst bench unit in the league under the reins of Steve Blake.
Although Blake was more willing to try and set Baynes up, he struggled running the team due to his ageing body and failing jump-shot.
While Jennings did not directly help Baynes as much as Blake, the improvement of the bench unit collectively coincided with his return, which helped Baynes indirectly.
There are obviously other contributing factors behind Baynes’ increased production, such as his improving health after surgeries to his ankle and nose along with more familiarity with his new teammates and system.
Also, Baynes stumbled into an effective pick and roll partnership with rookie Stanley Johnson which benefited the play of both players.
But with Jennings gone, it looks like the Pistons have little alternative other than to go back to Blake, or take another look at the younger yet equally ineffective Spencer Dinwiddie.
However, the incoming talent from the trade period, along with the numerous other contributing factors which helped Baynes find form to start the year, should offset further problems created from Detroit’s backup point guard position.
Detroit Pistons get: Donatas Motiejunas; Marcus Thornton
Houston Rockets get: Joel Anthony; 2016 first-round pick (top-eight protected)
The second trade Detroit made brought in 7-footer Donatas Motiejunas who plays both the power-forward and center positions, which could potentially pose a problem for Baynes going forward.
When grading the trade, Kevin Pelton of ESPN wrote:
Presumably he’ll replace Aron Baynes as Detroit’s backup to (and hacking insurance for) center Andre Drummond, with the ability to occasionally play alongside Drummond depending on matchups.
Pelton is probably not entirely correct on this one, as it’s unlikely the key motivation to bring Motiejunas into the team was to replace Baynes as the backup center.
It’s more likely is that Motiejunas was brought in to fill the void at the stretch-4 position after trading Ilyasova, whether that is starting alongside Drummond or playing next to Baynes in the second unit.
— Ari Wagner (@AriHoopsWagner) February 18, 2016
Van Gundy loves to run the spread pick-and-roll with the power forward camping on the perimeter, so it’s little surprise he was keen to maintain the status quo in that position.
However, Van Gundy has already told Detroit.com there will be games where the Pistons could decide to play Motiejunas as a stretch 5, which will likely be at the expense of Baynes’ minutes.
So he can play with Andre (Drummond), but he can also play as a backup center and now we have what we’ve talked about this year that some other teams have a chance to do, which is to play a stretch five, not just a stretch four. We think when you add Donatas to the group that we’ve already put together, we think we’re equipped to deal with any kind of lineup anybody might play against us.
Baynes losing minutes at backup center, is probably going to be more uncommon than common.
The Pistons players and coaches often talk of how impressed they are with Baynes thanks to the intangibles and leadership, and since the beginning of the year he has been one of the better backup centers in the league.
Editor of Pistons.com Keith Langlois, doesn’t see the new additions bumping Baynes down to the end of the bench any time soon.
Absolutely. Baynes is the constant in the middle of the bench unit. https://t.co/peJaKJngml
— Keith Langlois (@Keith_Langlois) February 18, 2016
There will certainly be some shuffling of the decks in the Pistons’ bench unit. This will have a flow on affect to Baynes, but this should only be result minor adjustments to his current role and output.
Those who think Baynes is readily expendable, probably haven’t been paying close enough attention to his recent play and what he brings to the team.