What to expect and what not to expect from Aron Baynes

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Aron Baynes arrives in San Antonio with expectations like no other 15th man in the NBA. You would think that a player added midseason to a team that can go 13 or 14 players deep (if rules permitted such a thing) would be fairly anonymous. Just another body to help round out lineups in practice.

No such luck for Aron Baynes. Already developing a bit of a cult following — or as much of a cult following as someone can develop in about three weeks — for his physical style of play and his name’s likeness to the character of Bane from the Batman comics, some in the Spurs fanbase may get the idea that signing Baynes may be the difference-maker for San Antonio.

He’s not.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m intrigued by some of the things Baynes brings to the table. We’ll get to those in a moment. But anyone who thinks that whether or not Aron Baynes plays consistent minutes for the Spurs this season is the difference between winning a championship or flaming out in the playoffs is flat wrong. Just like the vast majority of the late season buyouts barely make a dent for the teams they sign with, Boris Diaw excluded, the signing of Baynes won’t make much of a ripple on the NBA landscape.

Now, all that said, bringing Baynes into the fold should improve the Spurs in several areas.

Speaking before the Spurs’ 106-102 win over the Hornets on Wednesday night, Spurs assistant coach (and head coach for the night) Mike Budenholzer gave us his impressions of Baynes.

“He’s been really good for the Australian national team and he’s been having a great year over in Europe,” Coach Bud said. “Very athletic, can really run, rebound. I was just joking with the other guys about a great screen-setter, which Tony and Manu and our guards are already talking about.”

While he’s probably limited in much of his technical ability, Baynes seems to be a mobile big man capable of bringing a physical edge that the Spurs lack at times. DraftExpress listed him at 7’0″ with shoes on coming out of college and a 7’2.5″ wingspan. If he’s athletic as Bud says he is, Baynes would bring a new wrinkle to the Spurs’ big man rotation.

“He’s a very good athlete, he really can get up and down the court,” Bud said.

There’s an old quote from Jerry West about constructing a roster that I can’t find. I think Tim Varner told me about it, so for all I know it could be completely made up. The gist of it is that you don’t want a lot of redundant pieces. You want to put together a group of players with diverse skillsets that complement each other.

With the signing of Baynes, RC Buford and the front office have added another piece to that puzzle. When asked to use a current NBA player to describe himself, the only player out of Baynes’ mouth was Reggie Evans. The Spurs didn’t employ any players like Evans before Baynes touched down in San Antonio.

“I want to bring some toughness and try and be a tough player down in the paint, and both offensive and defensively there’s a few players around the league that are like that,” Baynes said at his introductory press conference. “Reggie Evans has definitely made a career for himself being a tough guy.”

While Baynes said he does’t quite know what his role on this Spurs team is, I think it’s pretty clear. Be big and tall, move swiftly, foul hard.

I’ve harped on the Spurs’ pick-and-roll defense before, and that may be the biggest long term benefit to signing Baynes. Last season the Spurs were the worst team in the NBA at defending the ball handler coming off of picks. As Tim Duncan slowed down, the Spurs pick-and-roll D slipped. It was why the Spurs were swept by the Suns in the 2010 playoffs.

According to Synergy Sports, the Spurs are in the middle-of-the-pack defending the pick-and-roll this year, despite being the fourth overall defense. San Antonio concedes .79 points per possession to the ball handler on pick-and-rolls this season (16th in the NBA, up from 30th last season) and 1.02 PPP to the roll man (20th in the league).

In a very revealing comment from Coach Bud, that’s an area where they’re excited about the addition of Baynes.

“You watch him play pick-and-roll defense and he even maybe has the ability to switch and do things and be aggressive and hedge,” Bud said. “Pick-and-roll is such a big part of the game and having somebody that we feel like’s going to be able to help or improve our pick-and-roll defense, it’s a real huge addition.”

It’s impossible to know what the ceiling for a guy like Baynes is, especially when we have such limited footage of him against high-level competition. The Spurs could’ve unearthed another gem on the cheap who will contribute for years. Or there could be a reason that Baynes is 26 years old and is making his first appearance in the NBA. We’ll know in time.

What we do know is that Baynes fills a role for the Spurs that they don’t currently have and that his impact should be measured over months and not weeks. Baynes’ signing is a move in the right direction for San Antonio, just don’t pin the Spurs’ title hopes on him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=173600134 Ryan McShane

    I thought the Spurs could win a championship before they picked up Baynes. I think there are two types of teams the Spurs are going to face and have trouble with in the playoffs: the physical (LAC, MEM, and even LAL if they can get it together before March) and the finesse (MIA, OKC, NYK). To beat the former, it would help if they added another “7 footer” AKA a classical big man (Aron Baynes). To beat the latter, I think it would help to have one more big wing defender to throw at Durant, LeBron, or Carmelo (ie. trade Blair + backup ‘PG’ for Omri Casspi).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=569285018 Asad Ali

    Demotivating article.

  • rj

    If he were to garner consistent minutes, I suppose he would pair with boris diaw coming off the bench. Bobo is a finesse player. We could use some of the league of shadows in our second unit. (Gift keeps on giving)

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    There was also a funny moment during Bud’s press conference when Matt Tynan from PtR pointed out that Baynes will wear #16, the first Spur since Francisco Elson to wear 16.

    Bud said, “Is that what Aron’s wearing? Oh wow, we should’ve warned him.”

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  • Titletown99030507d

    Been looking at some footage during the olympics particularly against Russia and he just couldnt defend Mosgov. But he’s athletic enough to go to the rim on some ally oops plus he does know what to do with pnr. I dont think we’ll see the Nuggets in the playoffs anyhow.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Also wanted to say that reports have him at 6’10” but with basketball shoes at 7 feet. He should tell Splitter where he gets his playing shoes. Im sure Splitter would appreciate the hook up at 7’1″.

  • Jack

    So the Euroleague isn’t “high level competition”. Always nice to read NBA related articles for a good laugh.

  • Steve

    Exactly, I can’t understand why we don’t go after Omri Casspi. He wants out, and Cleveland needs rebounding. I think Blair for Casspi makes perfect sense. Unless their salaries don match up.

  • Graham

    Why? A healthy dose of realism would have been nice to a lot of people when Splitter first came in.

  • MrNiko

    I’m sticking by the guy could be Blair with the height not to suck.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    You took that out of context. I was saying that we don’t have a lot of footage of him playing in the Euroleague, not that the Euroleague wasn’t good comp.

  • Melbourne Spur

    I think you will see him more next year. Pop isn’t likely to run a guy important minutes when he doesn’t yet know our sets or defensive rotations etc. As an Aussie I’m happy to see him and Patty on the Spurs, but I can’t see Baynes being used a lot this year. Spell some minutes for our other bigs while providing 6 fouls and a big body, a dunk here, some boards there. That’s about what we’ll get this year I think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=173600134 Ryan McShane

    Blair makes about $1.1 mil and Casspi makes about $2.3 mil. I think the Spurs would have to include a draft pick if they didn’t include another $1 mil in player salary (which only exists in the form of backup PGs (Joseph $1.1, Mills $1.1, Neal $1.0, De Colo $1.4)).

  • http://profiles.google.com/lordxar Ray Briggs II

    So who are the Spurs moving Blair for? You know it’s coming.

  • Len

    Spot on. There have not been many guys brought in mid season that have contributed right away.

  • Titletown99030507d

    And yet Splitter achieved or is still achieving his goal. Screw the critics.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Blair and (Neal or Joseph)

  • Titletown99030507d

    I really don’t want to see Splitter’s minutes cut just to see someone either equal or even lesser.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=173600134 Ryan McShane

    Yeah, that makes sense with the French and Aussie connections on the team. Neal’s about to make the big bucks. I’d pick Joseph personally, but I don’t think Cleveland would feel like they won that trade if they got Joseph.

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  • sean

    First its very uncommon for spurs pick up player from europe in middle of season unless they really think he can carry them over top or there already proposed trade for dujan blair.Time will tell if blair gone in nex few days or 2 weeks.IF blair stays spurs will finally be stack up font with 3 bigs and can play small with diaw or blair.They have abundance players that can play 1-2 or3 position.I have not seen alot video Baynes but what i see and like is he dunks ball alot and he physical,that type center inside they need in playoffs against bigs OKC ,Grizzles,so it can only help.Its up pop to make right decision in playoff games because i truley think he cost this group or team’s over years another championship with decisions he made in playoffs by being too conservative

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  • SpursFan

    So, did you by chance catch the Dallas series that Baynes came in and made a difference in?