Raise your hand if you had the Austrailian big man Aron Baynes in your Most Improved Player of the Year award discussion preseason…? (Insert crickets buzzing and a tumbleweed rolling.) This is an insane development. The former Celtic Baynes got traded this offseason to the Phoenix Suns, who just happen to be one of the more pleasant surprises in the association sitting at 6-4.
Not only are the Suns improving markedly this year in essentially all facets, they’re doing it without the former first overall pick and absurd talent in center DeAndre Ayton as he faces suspension for PED use.
Apparently Ayton’s absence propelled his backup Baynes to channel his inner Wilt Chamberlain. He’s averaging a staggering 16.2 points per game (good for 59th in the NBA), 5.8 rebounds, and 3 assists which both rank top 70 in the league. He’s shooting 60% from the field and 50% from 3 point land. Context is everything: and these averages crush his career averages of 5.7 points per game, 4.4 rebounds per game, 0.8 assists per game, 50% shooting from the field and 35% from three.
Formerly known as a guy who brings a little rebounding, general energy and play-making, gets dunked on a lot, and had a fire man bun has blossomed into something special. All jokes aside Ayton is still clearly the vastly better player, but with the way Phoenix is rolling right now, crazy as it is, Baynes might be the answer at the starting 5 in the short term.
In 2018-2019, all but one (1) of the top ten (10) box plus/minus leaders were NBA All Stars. The one snub was Rudy Gobert, who was named DPOY and All NBA 3rd Team.
Aron Baynes is currently tied with Kawhi Leonard for 4th in box plus/minus. pic.twitter.com/LL5BwHMp3U
— sunOfficial Aron Baynes Fan Club (@BaynesFanClub) November 13, 2019
As much as I want to enjoy the former Celtics fan favorites success, it kills me deep inside I can’t lie. Boston currently sits atop the NBA with an 8-1 record, rattling off an impressive win streak after an opening night loss vs the Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics have plenty of upside, but it’s clear this roster still needs a serious upgrade in the frontcourt in order to seriously compete in the east.
Offseason acquisition Enes Kanter is a talented role player but he’s already suffered two injuries before we’ve even reached Thanksgiving. He’s been injury prone his entire career and is a huge defensive liability. German big man Daniel Theis brings similar energy and an ability to run the floor like Baynes does, but he can so inept on offense at times. Robert “Timelord” Williams should have the Celtics optimistic with his ability to finish at and protect the rim consistently. Still in all, he’s a young player with a lot of growth needed to become reliable each night.
Unfortunately, a lot of what the Celtics are missing in the paint can be provided by Baynes. It makes it even more frustrating that we gave him away in a trade while he’s owed just 5 million dollars through this season before his contract expires. Far from a huge cap hit for what you’re getting on the court right now.
Sadly, the Celtics can’t get Baynes back but must upgrade the frontcourt in the short term. Boston general manager Danny Ainge’s next mission must be trying to package together a trade for the likes of Steven Adams, Kevin Love, or Andre Drummond who all could potentially be on the trade block this February.
As far as Baynes, he’s on a team with a legit cornerstone player in sniper Devin Booker. They’ve upgraded at head coach finally hiring Monte Williams. They have savvy role players and plenty of shooting ability. And of course, the emergence of Aron Baynes first and foremost gives the Suns some hope for a team that’s been in the dump of the dumps lately.