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Aussies in NBA: Is Aron Baynes’ solid February riding up his trade value?
This season hasn’t gone as expected for Aron Baynes.
The feel-good nature of his breakout 2015/16 campaign is gone. Instead, that feeling has been replaced with one of inconsistency, a trend that doesn’t look like stopping as we head towards the All-Star break.
In the month of February, where the Pistons have actually started to play better basketball with a 6-3 record, Baynes has struggled to lock regular minutes down. While he has appeared in all nine games, Baynes has played double-digit minutes in seven of them. However, two of those single-digit minute outings have occurred in the last four matches.
Despite the erratic playing time Stan Van Gundy is handing the 30-year-old, the numbers say the more he is on the floor, the better – a fact that could be increasing Baynes’ trade value.
Baynes’ name has been mentioned in trade rumours all year long, and with the deadline less than a week away, he is starting to pick up his production.
In February, Baynes has been a cog in Detroit’s mini season-revival. He is averaging 6.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 0.8 blocks and shooting 55.6 percent from the floor in 15.9 minutes; all increases on his season averages. To further uncover how productive Baynes has been for the Pistons lately, though, you must dig deeper in the statistics and the footage.
The impact Baynes is making on winning is evident. When he has been on the court in the month of February, Detroit is scoring 106.9 points per 100 possessions and allowing 95.0 points per 100 possessions. If these numbers were maintained across the entire season, it would pit the Pistons first in defensive efficiency and 13th in offensive efficiency.
While Baynes’ game may lack style and substance, it certainty doesn’t mean he isn’t doing things right.
Defensively, Baynes won’t be a highlight-reel making shot blocker like his teammate, Andre Drummond. However, Baynes will always be in the right position at the right time, whilst playing within the team structures.
Notice on this play the different defensive roles Baynes takes up. First, he stays attached to Jonas Valanciunas, a mid-range shooting threat. When he notices DeMar DeRozan has a beeline to the rim, Baynes promptly rotates to the baseline to block his path, which causes the Raptor All-Star to pass it to Jakob Poeltl. Baynes recovers quickly, just in time to block the shot attempt.
In just one possession, Baynes took up three different defensive roles and executed them all efficiently. None of it was flashy, but they all helped the Pistons secure the stop.
Baynes’ deceptively quick-witted defensive nature is seen again on this play. When Larry Nance Jr. makes the pass to Ivica Zubac, Baynes is stuck in no man's land, but was able to quickly react to Zubac’s attempt, and deny it.
The Australian's quick feet are seen again on this possession against the Indiana Pacers. Thanks to a solid screen from Al Jefferson, Monta Ellis is able to get past the initial defender and gain a head of steam towards the hoop. Baynes stayed low on the pick-and-roll action though, and keeps pace with Ellis, forcing the turnover.
This philosophy translates to the other end of the court, where Baynes is doing all the right things for the Pistons.
While it usually isn’t an offence's first-option, Baynes can hit the mid-range shot when he needs to, and he positions himself on the correct spot on the floor to do so. This trait is seen in the below examples against the Lakers and Pacers.
Baynes is also able to find a gap in the opponent's defence here, after a slew of screens finally opens up the Sixers coverage.
However, Baynes makes most of his offensive money doing the dirty work on the boards. They don’t call him the ‘Banger’ for nothing, and he has continued to live up to that moniker this month, averaging 2.1 offensive rebounds. It’s exactly this type of effort on missed free throws that’ll ensure Baynes always has a spot in the league.
When Baynes goes to the bench, Detroit’s play takes a major downturn. This month, the Pistons cough up 106.7 points per 100 possessions when the Aussie is off the floor, a number that would rank in the league’s bottom third, if converted to the whole campaign. The offensive difference is minimal, but noteworthy, as Detroit’s rating on that end dips from 106.9 to 103.9.
On the whole, Baynes’ season has still been a downgrade from his previous one. A strong start to February, though, has seen him return to some of the form that netted him a large contract a couple of summers ago.
Now, that level of play could see Baynes’ value in the trade market build.