It’s been weeks since Aron Baynes has discussed his player option with the Detroit Pistons. We’ll discuss what that could mean going forward.
The Detroit Pistons had a dismal end to a disappointing 2016-17 season. The Pistons were unimpressive, but they had some shining lights to show for it. Among those to shine last season was Aron Baynes. While his box score won’t jump out at you, averaging just 4.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per game, he was effective in other less obvious ways.
Considering his defensive performance, it shouldn’t come as much surprise that he had the second-best on-court defensive rating on the team. The Pistons allowed just 98.5 points per 100 possessions when Baynes was on the floor, but yielded 108.1 points per 100 when he was on the bench.
Baynes was also the best rim protector the Pistons had among all rotational players. Inside 6′, opponents shot 10.7 percent worse than their season average when he was the primary defender.
Of the Pistons two backup centers, Baynes is the only known commodity. He clearly had Stan Van Gundy’s trust, playing virtually all meaningful backup center minutes during the competitive portion of the season. Boban Marjanovic was effective when he was on the floor, but his playing time was sparse and often not against premiere competition. Marjanovic is far from mobile, and Van Gundy prefers his bigs to be able to move their feet defensively.
Van Gundy seemed to operate under the impression last offseason that Baynes would opt out of his player option this summer, signing Marjanovic as his de facto replacement for this coming season. However, that conflicted with the facts on the ground as Baynes continued to get the lion’s share of minutes, and Marjanovic was used primarily as a victory cigar, playing nothing but mop-up duty for the majority of the season.
Van Gundy has insisted that Baynes would opt out for majority of the past season, but the 2017-18 salary cap will be about $7 million less than previously projected. This means there will be significantly less money for teams to spend on backup big men.
Additionally, backup big men signed to big-money deals last season have proven to be cautionary tales. Ian Mahinimi signed a four-year $64 million deal with the Washington Wizards and played just 31 games in an injury-shortened season, averaging 5.6 points and 4.8 rebounds in 18 minutes per game. Timofey Mozgov signed an identical contract and averaged 7.4 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. Bismack Biyombo was perhaps the shining light of the high-priced reserve bigs, signing a four-year $70 million deal and averaging 6 points and 7 rebounds in 22 minutes per game.
While those deals are certainly higher priced than what Baynes would be looking at in even the most optimistic of circumstances, the longer we go into the Detroit Pistons’ offseason the more likely it seems that he’s going to opt into his $6.5 million player option. If he was to opt out, the Pistons would be limited in what they could offer him because they do not hold his full Bird rights. They could only offer him 175% of his most recent year’s salary, which would come out to $11.375 million.
Considering they have Marjanovic, the Pistons would likely thank him for his services and wish him the best if he was to opt out rather than foot that hefty bill. On the other hand, if Baynes opts in, Marjanovic becomes expendable and considering the Pistons’ massive salary obligations they may choose to trade him away for cap relief.
His last comments about the coming season suggested that he felt like he had unfinished business in Detroit. Whether that’s whimsy or he is actually considering a return, the Detroit Pistons are playing a waiting game right now. Aron Baynes has full control of what comes next.