San Antonio Spurs center Drew Eubanks emerged as a solid backup center last season, adding a physical presence behind starter Jakob Poeltl. With the additions of Thaddeus Young, Jock Landale, and Zack Collins, he will face more competition for the role next season. Eubanks will have to elevate his game or risk losing his role.
Fortunately, it appears that he's been hard at work this off-season. With continued work on his game, Eubanks can improve upon his solid play and thus become even more valuable to the Spurs. That said, I believe he could learn a lot by looking to another former bruising Spur in hopes of reaching his full potential.
How Drew Eubanks could learn from Aron Baynes' game
Drew Eubanks and former Spur Aron Baynes share a number of similarities in playing style. Baynes is a 6-10 center who took an unusual route to the NBA. He was signed by San Antonio at age 26 midway through the 2012-13 season after having spent several years playing internationally.
Once in the NBA, he slowly developed into a capable backup center over the course of his three seasons with the team. He provided the team with a bruising center who set hard screens, crashed the glass, and finished well around the rim, usually with a ferocious dunk. Furthermore, he showed that he could knock down the occasional jump shot, though his ability to space the floor didn't come until after he left the Spurs.
On defense, despite being a surprisingly good athlete given his bulky frame, Baynes struggled early on. This was particularly the case away from the rim, though he often struggled with committing fouls near the basket as well. That said, he eventually developed into a capable rim protector by using his length and frame to form a barrier that was difficult to push back in mid-air.
Eubanks, like Baynes, also took an unorthodox route to the NBA. He went undrafted out of Oregon State in 2018 and signed with San Antonio on a two-way contract. While he didn’t initially impress coming out of college, he developed quickly. In just three seasons, he managed to work his way up from the G League to the Spurs' rotation.
He accomplished this by being effective in areas that the Spurs have historically valued in a center. For instance, like Baynes, he's an excellent roll man who sets hard screens and rolls hard to the basket. Additionally, he finishes well at the rim and is also an excellent rebounder.
Defensively, Eubanks is still a work in progress, though he has shown some improvement on that end. Last season, he proved better at defending shots at the rim while also decreasing his foul rate. However, he lacks lateral quickness and can get taken advantage of when defending away from the basket, much like Baynes.
While the two share many similarities, their games do differ in some areas. Baynes is taller, longer, and stronger than Eubanks. That said, Eubanks is a better athlete than Baynes and lighter and quicker on his feet. Additionally, he makes better use of his leaping ability, using it to get up for floaters or for big dunks, alley-oops, and putbacks. While Eubanks' offensive game is largely confined to the paint. Baynes displayed a comfort level for shooting outside of the paint early on.
That said, he didn't hit jumpers at a high rate despite having a good form on his shot and being a solid free-throw shooter. As a result, Baynes hit just 46.3 % of his shots as a Spur compared to Eubanks, who connected on 58.4% of his shots. However, despite his shooting struggles, Baynes continued to work on expanding his range and eventually evolved into a serviceable stretch five.
With Eubanks also working to expand his range, he could look to Baynes as a guide. After all, Baynes hit only a few jumpers during his time with the team, though as a member of the Phoenix Suns, he hit 35.4% of his 4 attempts per game.
With the addition of Landale, a sharpshooting stretch five, Eubanks has further motivation to try and emulate Baynes by shooting threes. Were he able to do so, he would solidify his spot in the rotation and role with the Spurs going forward.