What to expect and what not to expect from Aron Baynes
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.
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.