Amidst a 4 game losing streak and an inability to get off the schneid since the All-Star break we haven’t had much good news to soak in. Today (so far, no promises about the rest of it) has been different.
Remember Aron Baynes??? It’s seemed like an eternity since we’ve seen him play (he last suited up February first) and he’s missed so much time this season with various injuries. Early in the year he fractured his hand against the Phoenix Suns on December 12th which cost him 13 games. He then returned for 9 games to subsequently suffer a foot contusion on February 1st which has kept him out of the lineup ever since. During those 9 games Baynes was back the Celtics went on a run as they won 8 of 9 games and seemed to hit their stride. Since he went back on the shelf the Celtics are 4-6 and have been giving up 113.5 points per game in what has been a brutal stretch for their defense.
For comparison, during the 9 games Baynes was back in the lineup they gave up a mere 104.8 points per game and their defense looked a lot better. His positioning, rotations, and overall role he plays on defense cannot be overstated and his absence has been a key factor in their downfall lately. He solidifies things down low and when he’s not around you can easily see how the unit is effected as a whole. The rotations aren’t as sharp and he’s another guy who they can let anchor the defense other than Horford.
It wasn’t a coincidence either as Baynes held a 108.9 offensive rating coupled with a defensive rating of 98.2 during that 9 game stretch. That’s shakes out to a net rating of +10.7 as he filled his role perfectly. He averaged 6.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks while shooting 50/36.4/80 in just 16.8 minutes per game. Making the most of his minutes is where Baynes thrives and when the big Aussie is knocking guys around down low, setting solid screens, and showing off that soft shooting touch, he’s the perfect bench big for this team.
On offense he does a nice job of spacing the floor while also being able to free guys up with some of the best screens in the game. He ranks 22nd in the NBA in screen assists per game (3.2) and is 19th in screen assist points per game (7.4). Al Horford is the only player on the Celtics with more screen assists than Baynes but also plays significantly more minutes. Baynes only plays 14.9 minutes per game which is the least out of all of those players ranked highly. It’s so impressive how much he can impact the game in such limited minutes but he’s shown us night in and night out that he can do it. He’s wildly efficient and the Celtics could use some of that back in the lineup during this lull they’ve been going through lately.
More food for thought…when Baynes suits up this season the Celtics are 22-12 compared to a record of 15-13 when he’s on the sidelines. For some reason or another they’re just a completely different team when he’s out there mucking it up.
I miss Aron Baynes. I pray to the high heavens that this is the last time I have to see him sidelined for an extended period of time. He should be set return this weekend and personally I’m eyeballing Sunday at home against James Harden and the Houston Rockets.