After much negotiation over the summer, Aron Baynes and the San Antonio Spurs were able to come to one-year, $2.1 million deal that would put the Australian big man back in a Spurs uniform for a third season.
Now, almost a quarter through the season, Baynes’ contract with the team is looking like one of the biggest steals of the summer.
Nov 17, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs power forward Aron Baynes (16) attempts to dunk the ball over Philadelphia 76ers power forward Brandon Davies (0) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
This season, Aron Baynes is posting career high averages in points and rebounds, 7.6 and 4.9 respectively, while shooting a career high 60.4% from the field. The big man is also posting a career high in minutes per game and has registered more than half of the minutes he had all of last season.
A breakout of some sorts this season for the 6-foot-10 post player could have been anticipated after Baynes led his home country Australia in points, 16.8, and rebounds, 7.0, during the 2014 FIBA but no one could have predicted a breakout of this magnitude.
Just to show you how big of a coming out party Aron Baynes has had this season, note his player efficiency rating (PER) of 16.57. That number ranks 29 among all qualified power forwards, and in case you forgot, there are 30 NBA teams which means 30 starting power forwards. You can see where I am going here.
Even more shocking is that PER is higher than the likes of Kevin Garnett, Serge Ibaka, and Nene, all of whom make an excess of $12 million per season. Now that may change over the course of the season but the fact that statistic is true nearly a quarter of the way through the season is shocking.
Aron Baynes development as a player has been truly something to behold. He has turned into a monster with his offensive and defensive efficiency, establishing himself as one of summer’s biggest free agency steals.
Patrick Patterson, a power forward on the Toronto Raptors, inked a contract over the summer for three-years, $18 million. For comparison, Baynes is averaging the aforementioned 7.6 points and 4.9 rebounds in 17.2 minutes while Patterson and his bigger contract are posting numbers of 7.0 points and 5.8 rebounds in 25.2 minutes.
What’s even more crazy is that it’s not all about efficiency. Well, it kind of is, but, it’s also that Aron Baynes has actually improved his game. Forget about the PER for a second and look at some more staggering numbers.
This season Baynes, in increased minutes, is posting a free throw rate of .275, more than double last season’s rate of .129.
Not only is Aron Baynes getting to the line more frequently, but, he also seems to be an improved shooter. After shooting below 50% ever outside of the rim last season, Baynes has clearly expanded his range, shooting 73.7% in the 3-feet to 10-feet range. That percentage is very significant when you consider that percentage was 40.4% last season.
Nov 21, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Aron Baynes (16) drives to the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves forward Chase Budinger (10) in the fourth quarter at Target Center. The Spurs win 121-92. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
The shocking thing is, that improved percentage is not a function of Baynes taking less shots from the outside. In fact, he has already connected on 14 attempts from that range compared to 21 last season.
It’s not just the 3-feet to 10-feet range though. Baynes’ shooting numbers are improved across the board, at all distances. Considering most role players watch their numbers fall with increased minutes, Baynes’ effort in this department should be applauded.
While Aron Baynes’ offensive strides have garnered much of the attention this season, his work on defense has also been notable.
Although Baynes’ rebounding percentage has fallen from 16.6% to 16.2%, that does not mean he has become a worse rebounder. In fact, that slight drop-off should actually be taken as a positive because, as stated earlier, numbers usually drop with increased minutes.
Even though that rebounding percentage has technically dropped, it is still good enough to put Baynes in the top 20 rebounding percentages for power forwards. If you consider him as center, his ranking drops, but, not too much coming in at 26th in the league at the five position.
Aron Baynes development as a player has been truly something to behold. The San Antonio Spurs really lucked out, basically stealing the Australian in free agency. He has already broken career records 17 games through the season, posting a career high 15 points and 12 rebounds in games earlier this year.
Spurs fans better hope that the franchise can figure out a way to re-sign Baynes this offseason, because if he continues this pace, he will be one of the hottest commodities on the free agent market, especially in a league where quality big men are so few.