Aussies in NBA: 4 observations on Aron Baynes' preseason

Aussie big man Aron Baynes entered Pistons training camp this season healthy and in great shape, a far cry from his first year in the Motor City.

This time last year, Baynes was hampered by an ankle injury that derailed the early part of his season as he struggled to find both game fitness and familiarity with his new teammates. Over the course of the first three months, Baynes averaged just 4 points and 4 rebounds on a mere 45% shooting.

Despite the start, Baynes was able to finish the season playing an integral role for head coach Stan Van Gundy, who would insert Baynes into games late when opposing teams would employ the hack-a-Shaq strategy on Pistons starting center Andre Drummond. Post All-Star break, Baynes posted 7.5 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest on 52% shooting from the field and 78% from the free throw line.

A strong finish last to season, coupled with an outstanding Olympic campaign, make anticipation high for Baynes to have a career best year in Detroit.

In a preseason game against Atlanta, Baynes posted 16 points and 7 rebounds on 6-8 shooting from the field, all the while matched up against former three time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard.

Unfortunately for Baynes, some friendly fire at Pistons practice last week resulted in him receiving a broken nose. The Aussie big man had surgery to repair the break and is still expected to suit up for Detroit's regular season opener against the Raptors.

After four preseason games, here are some hints as to what to expect from Aron Baynes this upcoming NBA season.

1. Baynes is Detroit's backup center

Baynes was brought to Detroit at the beginning of last season on a three-year, $20 million dollar deal orchestrated by head coach Stan Van Gundy. He was targeted to play the specific role of backup center behind rising star Andre Drummond. Despite the slow start, Baynes excelled in his position on the team.

During the off-season the Pistons signed free agent big men Boban Marjanovic and Jon Leuer to multi-year deals.

Standing at a massive 7'3, Marjanovic was signed by the Spurs at the beginning of last season with the intention of developing him behind the likes of Tim Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge. He spent time with San Antonio's D-League affiliate before becoming the first Spurs player in history to record 12 rebounds in 15 minutes or less in a January game against Phoenix. Marjanovic is still raw, however he showed flashes of ability as he posted 22 points and 12 rebounds in San Antonio's final regular season game last season.

While Marjanovic's length can cause issues for opposing teams, Aron Baynes is still the better defender in both the post and in terms of general basketball IQ. Baynes is also able to set much better picks and is overall more comfortable on offence.

During the Atlanta preseason game that Andre Drummond sat out, Stan Van Gundy elected to start Baynes instead of Marjanovic. Expect Marjanovic to be Detroit's third string center.

While Jon Leuer and Baynes play nothing alike, Leuer may end up taking minutes away from Baynes. Simply put, Jon Leuer is a Stan Van Gundy type of player. In his years with Orlando, Van Gundy played Rashard Lewis next to budding All-Star center Dwight Howard to great success. Leuer is a similar player to Lewis in that he is able to stretch the floor with his distance shooting and therefore, open up the inside for Andre Drummond to work.

While Van Gundy wasn't playing Baynes and Drummond together last season, the big man rotation only has so many minutes and Baynes may suffer as a consequence to the Jon Leuer signing.

2. If it ain't broke...

At age 29, and entering his fifth NBA season, we now know what type of player Aron Baynes is. He is a blue collar, in the trenches type of guy. He is going to do all the dirty work other players are unwilling to do to make a team successful.

He uses his brute strength to pull down rebounds and back defenders down in the post. His best skill is arguably, an ability to set hard screens that allow his teammates to get wide open. He has an array of serviceable post moves and knows where to position himself on the floor.

Baynes will never be an All-Star, and that's okay. Very few players ever reach that level and still have very successful NBA careers. Without role players like Baynes, the superstars of the league would find their jobs much harder.

During the Pistons preseason game against Atlanta, Baynes showed just how pivotal he may be to Detroit's hopes of climbing the Eastern Conference standings. If he is able to come into the game, control the boards, set strong picks, roll hard to the basket and play opponents tough, Baynes will give Van Gundy and the Pistons exactly what they need.

3. Health might be an issue going forward

Already made mention is the fact that Baynes suffered a broken nose during practice last week and that he had a limiting ankle injury to start last season. However, previous to the broken nose, Baynes missed a preseason game recently due to back soreness.

The Aussie will be turning 30 this December, and while he managed to play an impressive 81 games last season, the mileage and niggling injuries are starting to add up. Baynes had a busy off-season, averaging 22.8 minutes per game as a member of the Boomers squad that went to the Rio Olympics.

At 6'10 and 118kgs, there is a lot that can go wrong for the big man. For the sake of his longevity and the Pistons aspirations, it will be key to manage his back soreness and any other injuries smartly moving forward.

4. Baynes is likely sticking with that haircut

Julius Erving took the afro mainstream. Michael Jordan made being bald cool. Allen Iverson started a revolution with his cornrows and now, Aron Baynes is inspiring kids all across the world with his interesting take on hair.

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As long as he continues his solid play and thrives in his role with Detroit this upcoming NBA season, he can have any hairstyle he wants.