Starting Center is a problem
What was a luxury a year ago has now turned into an ugly complication. We never expected Aron Baynes to fill the void of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, but what we did expect was for him to fit seamlessly in Nick Nurse’s system. Five games in and Baynes has pretty disappointing.
I believe that Baynes shouldn’t be at fault as much as he should, he is pretty much doing what he has done his whole career. He isn’t shooting the usual 30 percent from three and his defense might’ve dropped off a little but he is doing what he’s asked of. A low usage center who plays solid defense, rebounds, screens, and shoot a couple of threes a game (the threes part is more recent).
The situation isn’t any different with the Toronto Raptors. It isn’t his fault the Raptors went from having two starting-caliber centers in Gasol and Ibaka to asking a career backup center to be a starter. The disappointment in Baynes is mostly attributed to the mini resurgence he had last year with the Suns averaging a career-high 11 points — the type of play we were expecting to continue with the Raptors.
However, that had more to do with the offensive system coach Monte Williams was running and the hot three-point shooting Baynes had at the beginning of the season. (After the first 12 games, he shot 44.2 percent. Following those 12 games, Baynes would go on to shoot 31 percent from three for the rest of the season).
This season, Baynes is a -18.3 in team point differential — worst among all starters — and he is also shooting the three at a 20 percent rate. He was never great on offense, but it is worrying that the team allows 9.2 points more per 100 possessions played when he is on; a career-worst for him so far. He is slow and other teams have cooked him in the pick and roll since Nurse opts to play drop coverage with Baynes.
Baynes can be better but that won’t be the factor that changes the Raptors’ win-loss column. Even if he plays to his usual performance (say shooting 30-33 percent from three and playing slightly better defense), that isn’t going to change much for the Raptors. The quality is lacking at the center position and it clearly has shown early on and it is something they’ve accepted to live with after letting Gasol and Ibaka leave.