Toronto Raptors: Baynes’ egregious start and future role on team

The Toronto Raptors are struggling to get decent minutes from their starting centers, especially Aron Baynes.

When the Toronto Raptors decided not to re-sign both their starter level centers –Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka — this offseason, they had no idea just how fundamental they were to their success last season. That can explain the reasoning behind replacing them with two back-up centers in Alex Len and Aron Baynes.

But we’re going to take a deeper look at Aron Baynes, a product who has looked significantly worse than what we expected. Though his fit made all the sense in the world, he has yet to shine even once this season. You know things are bad when we get excited about the fact that Baynes didn’t miss a basket near the rim.

The blame should not be placed on him entirely for the Raptors’ failures this season, as he was a backup for the majority of his eight seasons in the NBA — taking on a primary role after being accustomed to a secondary one can be difficult. However, that still doesn’t excuse the awful play we’ve seen from him so far.

Aron Baynes’ inability to do the minimum asked on offense has really hurt the Toronto Raptors

The Australian native went from averaging 11.5 points, shooting 35.1 percent from three, and 63 percent around the rim last season to averaging 4.9 points, shooting 17.6 percent from three, and 55 percent around the rim this season. Baynes was never going to come into the rotation being the focal point on offense — he just had to be respectable (33%) from three and finish at an acceptable rate around the rim — but minutes will be hard to come by if the offense turns into a constant 4v5.

On defense, Baynes was more or less as advertised. He does look a tad slower but he’s still good at what we expected him to be good at. Baynes takes the occasional charge, he does a good job of deterring baskets at the rim and is at the very least, a net positive defender.

But that still isn’t enough to warrant him of any NBA minutes. The team may allow 0.5 fewer points per 100 possessions when he is on the court, but it doesn’t remotely make up for the team scoring 12 points less when he is on the court.

Our expectations of Aron Baynes as a center who spreads the floor may have been clouded with the fact that he shot threes at a 35 percent rate last season. But that stat isn’t representative of Baynes’ actual three-point shooting. Following the hot shooting start where he shot 44.2 from three in the first 12 games, he would go on to shoot 31 percent from that range for the rest of the year; a number that is more reflective of his three-point percentage.

Is there still good NBA minutes left in Baynes

Aron Baynes just turned 34 and there’s no doubt that there are still quality minutes in him as a back-up at the very least. His three-point shot can only go up from 17.6 percent and so can his other percentages. He still does the right things on defense and it’s a matter of if he can not be a complete liability on the offensive end.

His best NBA minutes would most likely surface when defending the more traditional centers of the world like Jonas Valanciunas (I usually would say Embiid but no one except Gasol can stop him this season). Apart from those types of matchups, I don’t see Baynes being much more than a guy that can give you solid minutes protecting the rim, be a good screener, and get a charging call playing a little 8-10 minutes a night.

We can’t be too sure what the plan is for Baynes, and even Nick Nurse himself seems confused. For the second time this season, he has failed to see any play in the second half of a game he started — against the Celtics earlier and Thursday against the Hornets. And quite frankly, there’s no reason to do play him if the team looks infinitely better with him on the bench.

It can be argued that the last three games for the Toronto Raptors prior to the Charlotte game (albeit a 1-2 record) were the best string of performances they’ve put together this season. It surely isn’t a coincidence that there was not a single minute of Aron Baynes in those games.

Unless Baynes suddenly shoots 33-35 from three, don’t expect him to be playing many more minutes than he currently is anytime soon.