Aussies in NBA: Aron Baynes ready to test free agency once more

Aussie centre Aron Baynes has declined his $6.5 million dollar player option and will become a free agent, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports.

Baynes will test free agency after spending the previous two seasons in Detroit, where the big man averaged 5.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in just over 15 minutes of game time as the back up to former All-Star centre Andre Drummond.

In 2015, the Aussie signed a three-year, $20 million dollar deal that included a player option in the final year to play in the Motor City. Prior to that, Baynes enjoyed a three-year stint in San Antonio that included winning a championship with the Spurs in 2014.

Baynes had a mixed tenure with the Pistons, dealing with a lingering ankle injury early in his first season whilst also seeing his minutes fluctuate throughout his two years under head coach Stan Van Gundy. However, the Aussie also showed flashes of might, posting 13 points and 17 rebounds in a game against Phoenix in March, whilst going off for 20 points and 8 boards against Oklahoma City early in the 2016-17 season. Baynes and the Pistons failed to make it to the post season this year after posting a 37-45 record and finishing 10th in the Eastern Conference.

Despite being a free agent just two years ago, the market for unsigned players has changed quite dramatically since Baynes was last in this position. The NBA salary cap exploded from $70 million in 2015 to an unprecidented $94.1 million for the 2016-17 season, meaning free agents experienced quite an increase in salary. With the cap set to increase once again this off season, now is a good time for Baynes to cash in on the money being distributed by NBA teams. The big man turned 30 during the 2016-17 season, and will most likely be looking for one last lucrative, long-term deal in the league.

When looking at last year's off-season, there were a number of similar big men who received excellent contracts. Veteran Al Jefferson signed a three-year, $30 million dollar deal with the Pacers, Cole Aldrich got a three-year, $22 million dollar contract from Minnesota and Ian Mahinmi received $64 million across four years from Washington (What were they thinking?).

Let's compare this season's output from each player:

  • Aron Baynes 2016-17 averages: 4.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, 0.5 blocks, 51%FG, 15.5 minutes per game, age 30.

  • Al Jefferson 2016-17 averages: 8.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.2 blocks, 50%FG, 14.1 minutes per game, age 32.

  • Cole Aldrich 2016-17 averages: 1.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.4 blocks, 52%FG, 8.6 minutes per game, age 28.

  • Ian Mahinmi 2016-17 averages: 5.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, 58%FG, 17.9 minutes per game, age 30.

In terms of age, minutes, output and specific role, Baynes compares closest to Ian Mahinmi, albeit with a little less efficiency from the field. It's unlikely Baynes receives anything close to Mahinmi, rather something similar to that of Jefferson or Aldrich; $6-10 million a season for three years.

Of course, the NBA free agency market is fluid, and the demand for a hard-nosed, defensive back up centre may have changed from last off season to now. Aussie fans will have to wait and see how things play out for Baynes and where he ends up when the free agency period kicks off on July 1.

Here's hoping he gets paid!