The evolution of Aron Baynes' shooting, and how he broke the Australian NBA scoring record today
The rise of Aron Baynes as a three-point shooter has been a long time in the making.
His time with the San Antonio Spurs has seen him mostly as a mid-range shooting big man, with his first ever three-pointer against the Boston Celtics - a catch and shoot, buzzer beating one at that.
Since then, Baynes has honed his perimeter shot over his tenure with the Boston Celtics, proving himself in the playoffs in 2018 as a legitimate corner threat.
"When [Baynes] first signed [in Boston], he came by in the preseason and was just shooting around. I was down there with him, and I remember him just hitting shot after shot after shot," Stevens said on a conference call back in 2018. "It was mostly 15 to 17 feet. I talked to him a little bit about corner range, obviously, and then above-the-break range. He shot them every single day through training camp, through practice, through pregame shooting and everything else. We've encouraged him to shoot all year, especially from the corners.
"I've coached bigs before that when you're used to playing and scoring as a big, you're often times used to catching it in the middle of chaos in the paint and having bodies on you and everything else. It's just a different feel to catch it in a catch-and-shoot situation, especially from behind the arc, and let it fly. I think that there's a confidence that comes with making a couple. Sometimes guys that are good shooters with good touch, that's all they need is to see a couple go in.
"The game that I remember best that I thought really probably bolstered his confidence -- because he's always been a really good shooter; like if he goes out and shoots it by himself, he's going to make 70 to 75 percent of his open threes, especially in the corners -- was the Toronto game at the end of the year. He hit a couple on [Jonas] Valanciunas to spread him out a little bit. I think once he saw one go in, he felt pretty good about it. We talked about it a lot going into the Philly series because he was being guarded by [Joel] Embiid, to space to the corner. He's just kind of kept on doing it."
Baynes hasn't stopped improving on his outside shot since then. We saw it in the FIBA World Cup in China last year, when he displayed an impressive, consistent shooting stroke throughout the tournament.
After being traded to the Phoenix Suns, Baynes has only continued to let it fly. This season, he's taking 3.8 threes per game, making them at a career-high 36% in the regular season (he was 47.8% for Boston in the 2017/18 playoffs, at 1.2 3PA).
On 7 March 2020, his evolution has come full circle. We're treated to the sight of Baynes at the perimeter. No one could have projected this play ever happening: the Boomers big man executing a pump fake, drive and step back, before swishing the three.
Against the Portland Trail Blazers, Baynes finished the game as the highest ever scorer for Australians in the NBA, notching a career-high 37 points (previously Patty Mills, Ben Simmons at 34 points). The Boomers big man made 9 of 14 shots from the three-point line, as well as a handy double-double (16 rebounds), as well as one assist one steal and two blocks, in 36 minutes of play.
Baynes also set a Phoenix Suns franchise record for most three-pointers made in a single game.
“I was just trying to go out there and make the right plays," Baynes shared with Fox Sports Arizona. "Book was doing a great job getting the ball moving around. They were blitzing him and he was making great decisions all night — same with Ricky (Rubio). Those guys got me the ball in an open position and I’m just trying to go out there and knock down the shot like we practice every day.”
Baynes' impressive return and start after an extended absence from hip issues earlier this season, has come at the right time for the Suns, who had Deandre Ayton out with an ankle injury. The 33 year old Australian centre is currently in a contract year, and is due to enter unrestricted free agency at the end of the NBA 2019/20 season.