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Aron Baynes brings a physical, proven pedigree to Suns’ center position

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — It was hard to get a read on how much the Phoenix Suns valued acquiring Aron Baynes from the Boston Celtics in a trade where they also received the No. 24 overall selection Ty Jerome in exchange for a future protected first-round pick, especially with the veteran on an expiring contract.

The closer we get to the season, the easier it’s becoming to see that he was a large part of the deal.

Baynes arrives in Phoenix at the age of 32 with seven years of NBA experience. Grinding his way through the San Antonio Spurs system in his first three seasons, he spent two years with Detroit before his last two were in Boston.

He only averages 15.1 minutes per game over his career, and he somehow manages a big impact with those because his teams are always better when he’s on the court.

Baynes’ net ratings the past three years are 7.7, 6.5 and 5.9, meaning when he was on the court, Boston or Detroit were outscoring teams by at least five points per 100 possessions, a strong mark.

The difference in when Baynes is on the court compared to off the court in those three seasons was 4.2, 4.4 and 10.0 points per 100 possessions.

There are a lot of team-oriented guys who try and focus on filling in the gaps as role players, and some of them are actually really good at it, but few have it translate as positively to team success as Baynes has in this stage of his career.

Guard Tyler Johnson was not a fan of seeing Baynes’ team come to town.

“I used to hate playing against Aron,” he said Monday.

“One, from the way he would screen.”

Baynes is one of the best screen-setters in the league.

“Dying” on a screen is something defenders can ill-afford to do or else the possession itself likely dies and you can insert your splat sound effects for Baynes.

The Australian racks up screen assists by simply eliminating defenders.

He’s obviously a big dude, but it’s a craft for Baynes to understand the right angles to set those screens and he has some tricks too like planting his foot just as the defender arrives.

Here’s that trick that must have made Kemba Walker’s left shoulder really, really hurt.

This is a THUD.


You understand Johnson’s pain now?

Watching Baynes move around on the court, you’re not expecting a great rim protector. Baynes is just about one, though, thanks once again to his feel and sound fundamentals.

“Two, trying to get into the paint and finishing up over him — he’s really good at going up straight,” Johnson said of the second thing Baynes does so well.

Like we saw with the screens, there is no creating space off this man. Forcing him to continuously cover pick-and-roll is your best bet, and he’s limited there, but he will deter shots at the rim and swallow up dribble attacks.

Even when he has to contain drives, he just simply moves his feet, doesn’t over-commit and keeps his hands up ready to come at the ball.

Credit to Caris LeVert here for trying to move Baynes. Again, though, hands straight up, not fouling and then swiping when the ball presents itself.

And how about a weak-side recovery when he isn’t under the basket?

Baynes is limited in so many ways, and yet, he excels in the main areas you want your center to have a foundation in.

“I’m never the most talented guy on the teams I played with,” he said Tuesday. “There’s always someone else that’s more talented so I try working together and try and help them get better and through making them get better it also makes myself better as well.”

And those areas are where Deandre Ayton has to improve the most, which is why Baynes’ arrival in Phoenix is exciting.

“Aron can definitely help me be great,” Ayton said Tuesday. “He can definitely help me add on to this talent that I have because he’s already great himself and he has a ring so he’s seen it all.”

Ayton is capable of just about anything on the court because of his athleticism and skill.

When asked about coming in to mentor Ayton, Baynes sees the good habits in place already beyond that talent and said it’s a matter of a few tinkers here and there.

“It’s one of those things that he’s at a different level to where I was talent-wise in basketball but I know what I can do and I know what hard work allows you to do so I’m trying to instill some of that in him,” Baynes said on Monday. “But at the same time, he’s all about doing it the right way anyway so it’s good to see that he’s not just [loofing] about, he’s focused and professional with the way he carries himself.”

Johnson sees that too.

“He’s gonna be great for Deandre and teaching him just a little bit of nuance because of how talented he is,” he said.

There’s also that extra bit of physicality Baynes plays with that has earned him a reputation that can hopefully rub off on Ayton.

“Listen man, you see that guy, just walk the other way,” Kelly Oubre Jr. joked on Monday.

“He’s just gonna bring that edge piece for us that we need, that toughness.”

It sounds like the big fella is ready to see what it’s all about.

“It’s about time I headbutt somebody in practice and just go at ’em but also look up to them and respect them in a same way,” Ayton said. “So, it’s been a while and I’m excited. I need it, I need it, I need it.”

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