Aron Baynes

2018 Free Agent Stock Watch: Boston Celtics

The Celtics are in one of the most enviable positions in the NBA, with a winning core composed primarily of veteran players in or near their prime and a wave of promising young players with years left on their rookie deals. This summer, then, won’t be a particularly eventful one relative to the club’s 2017 transformation.

While the club does have a few pending free agents, most are replaceable and nearly all are affordable. The question the Celtics will have to answer in the summer then, is whether they’d be better off welcoming the selected few back or auditioning new options.

Aron Baynes vertical GettyAron Baynes, C, 30 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $4.3MM deal in 2017
After two years serving as Andre Drummond‘s primary backup in Detroit, Baynes signed on with the Celtics over the summer, immediately slotting into the team’s rotation as the most physically imposing big man on the roster. While Al Horford has thrived in customary fashion handling the bulk of responsibility at the five, Baynes has done what’s been asked of him. The C’s won’t need to break the bank to bring Baynes back next season, so – without any other traditional big bodies on board – it’s an easy enough sell.

Shane Larkin, PG, 25 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $1.5MM deal in 2017
Larkin, an undersized 25-year-old, has bounced around the NBA since coming out of Miami in 2013, but hasn’t made much of an impression at any of his four stops despite fascinating speed. Given Boston’s depth and contention timeline, that’s not likely to change. It’s hard to imagine that a Celtics team with no shortage of assets would prefer a fourth-string point guard with a precarious NBA future over the roster flexibility that letting him walk would bring.

Marcus Smart, PG, 23 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $14.8MM deal in 2014
It’s weird to remember that Smart is still only 23 years old, considering that he’s carved out a niche as a gritty, reliable defender over the course of several postseasons. His offensive game may leave much to be desired – he’s a 29.1% career three-point shooter – but he helps a successful team win games night in and night out. It’s not that much of a stretch, then, to picture other teams looking to poach Smart’s services, hoping for some of that winning mojo to wear off on them. Unfortunately for Smart, a restricted free agent, there’s a dearth of teams projected to have cap space next summer, the majority of whom will likely pursue more grandiose home runs swings. Expect Smart back with the Celtics at a fair price.

Atlantic Notes: Wright, Russell, Baynes

One month into his third NBA season and first as a regular member of the Raptors rotation, Delon Wright has dislocated his shoulder. As Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes, the guard suffered the injury in Thursday’s win over the Pelicans and will be out for an indefinite amount of time.

Wright had stepped up in the vacancy that Cory Joseph‘s free agency departure created. His 7.6 points and 2.6 assists per game were both career bests for the Raptors.

While there’s no guarantee that the 25-year-old will miss significant time for the Raptors, the injury comes on the same shoulder that he had surgery on in the summer of 2016, Josh Lewenberg of TSN says. In his first two NBA campaigns, Wright played just 27 games apiece.

A press release from the Raptors’ media relations department says that the next step for Wright will be to travel with the team to New York City next week for a special consultation.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Among the numerous players stepping up for the Celtics this season is offseason free agent addition Aron Baynes, Nick Metallinos of ESPN writes. Baynes provides toughness and leadership for a Boston team that lacked size last season.
  • The “reality of the NBA” has forced the Nets to experiment with smaller lineups. That’s head coach Kenny Atkinson‘s justification for why Timofey Mozgov‘s role has shrunk over the course of the season, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes.
  • Sidelined Nets guard D’Angelo Russell underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee today, the team’s official Twitter account tweets. Russell has been out of action since November 11. Expect the team to apply for a disabled player exception. Per Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders, general manager Sean Marks says there’s “probably a good chance” that they do. A DPE would be designed to replace Jeremy Lin, rather than Russell, since Lin is out for the season.

Celtics Notes: Hayward, Stevens, Horford, Baynes

“I had run that play countless times” is how Gordon Hayward begins a recap of his injury and the aftermath in a lengthy piece posted on his website. Titled “In an Instant,” the article retraces the collision that led to Hayward’s season-ending injury on opening night, his experiences at the hospital, the outpouring of support and the beginning of rehab.

Hayward’s surgery was successful and he expects to be ready for next season. He got thousands of messages of encouragement, and among those that stand out came from Paul George and Kobe Bryant, who both recovered from serious leg injuries, and the Utah Jazz, which Hayward left in free agency this summer. Hayward credits the Celtics for helping with the rehab process and notes that his injury will require young players like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to grow up faster.

“I keep imagining what it’s going to be like to step onto the floor at the Garden, and make my regular season debut as a Celtic,” Hayward writes. “It’s going to be a little delayed. But with each day of my rehab, I’ll be that much closer to making it happen. I’m already dreaming about sharing that moment with everyone here in Boston—a city that I’m still getting to know, but that I’ve connected with through all of this in ways beyond anything I could have imagined.”

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • Hayward is still very limited by the injury, but coach Brad Stevens said he has begun shooting from a chair, tweets Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Hayward is still in a walking boot, but had a hard cast removed.
  • Celtics players are crediting Stevens for keeping the team from panicking after Hayward went down, relays Chris Forsberg of ESPN. After an 0-2 start, Boston has strung together five straight wins to reach the top of the Eastern Conference. “Once [the Hayward injury] happened, we really didn’t know where we were at as a group,” said Al Horford. “But I felt like we’ve really come together and we’re trying to take it day by day. Just listening to Coach, and he’s steering us the right way.”
  • The Celtics haven’t lost since inserting Aron Baynes into the starting lineup, notes David Morrow of AmicoHoops. After Boston dropped its first two games with Horford as the starting center, Stevens made a lineup change to add size. Baynes took over in the middle, with Horford shifting to power forward, Tatum at small forward and Brown moving to the backcourt. It has become the team’s best overall lineup and its top rebounding group, grabbing 56% of all boards. Baynes, who signed with the Celtics this summer, is averaging a career-best 5.1 rebounds in about 20 minutes per game.

Celtics Notes: Morris, Baynes, Defense, Ojeleye

Marcus Morris may be ready for his debut with the Celtics this week, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. The 6’9 forward was acquired from the Pistons this summer in a deal for Avery Bradley, but has been unable to suit up because of soreness in his left knee. Morris had hoped to be ready for tomorrow’s game with the Spurs, but now Wednesday seems most likely.

“He needs to have at least a day of hard practice with our guys before he could play in a game,” said coach Brad Stevens. “That’s probably a little bit optimistic for Monday.” Morris didn’t travel with the team on its current road trip, staying in Boston for more treatments on the knee.

There’s more news out of Boston:

  • Aron Baynes was an under-the-radar move in a newsworthy Celtics offseason, but he is turning out to be a valuable addition, Blakely writes in a separate story. The former Piston has provided a physical presence in the paint, something the team lacked last year. Baynes, who signed a one-year, $4.3MM deal, has started three of the six games so far and is averaging 6.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per night. “Everybody has their own role to play and value to add,” Stevens said. “He’s physical and tough.”
  • There were concerns that Boston’s defense might decline after losing Jae Crowder and Bradley in offseason trades, but early-season numbers show an improvement, Blakely notes in another piece. The Celtics ranked third in the league heading into Saturday’s game with a defensive rating of 95.9. They are in the top 10 in steals, points off turnovers and effective field goal percentage. “It’s great team defense,” said Daniel Theis, who got his first start this week. “Two games in a row now, under 90 points, that’s really good defense.”
  • Rookie forward Semi Ojeleye only plays about 11 minutes per night, but he gets the toughest defensive matchups when he’s on the court, writes Jay King of MassLive. A second-round pick in this year’s draft, Ojeleye earned a roster spot on the strength of his defense and the Celtics have taken advantage of that attribute since the season began. Ojeleye has found himself matched up with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kristaps Porzingis and LeBron James. “You just try to prepare, watch film, try to be always ready,” Ojeleye said. “You try to take it seriously, know their tendencies, and go out there and just do what you can.”

Celtics Sign Aron Baynes

JULY 19: The Celtics have officially signed Baynes, the team announced today in a press release.Aron Baynes vertical

JULY 9: The Celtics have reached an agreement with Aron Baynes on a one-year deal that will be worth $4.3MM, sources tell Shams Charania of The Vertical (Twitter link). Boston will be using its room exception to bring Baynes aboard.

Baynes, who spent the last two seasons with the Pistons, turned down a player option worth $6.5MM to become a free agent this summer. Detroit didn’t rule out bringing back the big man, but ultimately renounced his rights as part of this week’s moves, all but closing the door on the possibility of a reunion.

Boston lacked frontcourt depth after losing Amir Johnson, Jonas Jerebko, and Kelly Olynyk in free agency and waiving Tyler Zeller. Baynes has an opportunity to play a key role off the bench for the Celtics.

Having used their cap room and their room exception, the C’s will now be limited to minimum salary deals for free agents going forward.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Free Agent Rumors: Durant, Hayward, Gay, Kings

The defending NBA champion Warriors started free agency off with a bang, agreeing to terms with two-time Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry to the richest pact in league history. The team will reportedly sign Curry to a five-year deal worth $201MM+ and now the focus turns to retaining the remainder of Golden State’s championship-winning roster.

Last year’s prized acquisition, Kevin Durant, led the team to a championship and is now a free agent. However, Chris Haynes of ESPN (via Twitter) reports that teams have not reached out to Durant’s camp to gauge his interest in leaving because they see it as a “waste of time.” Earlier this week, it was reported that Durant will wait to re-sign with the Warriors to allow the team to finish other offseason business, and he will not meet with other teams during that stretch.

Below are additional rumors surrounding this year’s free agency period:

  • If the Heat’s pursuit of Gordon Hayward falls through, the team may turn its attention to fellow free agent Rudy Gay, according to Chris Mannix of The Vertical (via Twitter). Mannix adds that Gay told the outlet he should be ready for the start of the season as he recovers from a torn Achilles.
  • The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor (via Twitter) cites three league sources who believe the Heat are the frontrunners for Hayward. The sunny beaches and warm weather of Miami, a popular coach in Erik Spoelstra, and a prominent role in which he can be the team’s primary scorer are all lucrative incentives, O’Connor notes. However, O’Connor acknowledges that it’s a fluid situation, and a lot could change based on Hayward’s meetings.
  • Restricted free agent Alan Williams is a “serious” candidate to sign with the Knicks, a source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post (Twitter link). While the Suns could match any offer for Williams, their willingness to do so may hinge on who else they’re able to land in free agency.
  • The Kings are intent on landing a power forward in free agency, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, who tweets that Zach Randolph, Patrick Patterson, and Taj Gibson are all on Sacramento’s radar. We had previously heard about the team’s interest in Randolph and Patterson.
  • According to Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter), the Pistons have been in contact with Reggie Bullock, Aron Baynes, and restricted free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope since free agency opened late on Friday night.

Pistons’ Aron Baynes Declines Player Option

Pistons big man Aron Baynes has turned down his player option for the 2017/18 season, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical (via Twitter). As our list of early player option decision dates shows, Baynes had to make a call on his $6.5MM option today.

[RELATED: Five Key Offseason Questions: Detroit Pistons]

Baynes, 30, was a part-time player for the Pistons in 2016/17, averaging 15.5 minutes per contest in 75 games. In his modest role, he averaged 4.9 PPG and 4.4 RPG, with a .513 FG%. The five-year veteran, who has spent two years in Detroit after playing for the Spurs for three seasons, will hit the unrestricted free agent market on July 1.

While it’s possible Baynes will be back with the Pistons, the team already has upwards of $95MM in guaranteed salaries without him on the books, and that doesn’t account for a potential new deal for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. With Boban Marjanovic possibly ready to play more minutes, and 2016 first-rounder Henry Ellenson perhaps in line for a larger frontcourt role as well, the Pistons may opt to let Baynes sign elsewhere.

You can check out our full list of this summer’s player option decisions right here.

Central Notes: Marjanovic, Payne, George

Expect Pistons big man Boban Marjanovic to get more of an opportunity to shine next season. Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes that fans can expect current backup center Aron Baynes to explore free agency by turning down his player option, leaving Marjonvic as the next man up behind Andre Drummond.

In limited action Marjanovic showed flashes of excellence, no surprise considering he did just that with the Spurs in 2015/16. Per 36, his 23.5 points and 16.0 rebounds make him a particularly compelling option for a Pistons team that often has to bench Drummond on account of his poor free-throw shooting.

Unfortunately, as the Pistons struggled and eventually failed to sneak into the postseason, Marjanovic was rarely used in 2016/17.

This is a fault of ours that we really didn’t build anything around him, either offensively or defensively,” Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy said last month. “We have to do some defensive things to help him and we’ve got to get him the ball even more offensively, but he was our third center, so we didn’t build enough around him. Certainly we will, going forward.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls are still very high on Cameron Payne, Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago writes, despite the fact that the guard wasn’t featured as heavily as some thought he would be following the deal in which they acquired him.
  • While they may be exploring their trade options, the Bulls mean no disrespect to starting swingman Jimmy Butler, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes. “Don’t misunderstand: We think the world of him. You can’t say enough good things about how this young man has made himself the player that he is,” team executive vice president John Paxson said.
  • A panel of NBA.com columnists discussed what they would do with Paul George this offseason and how big of a priority retaining him would be if they stepped into the role of incoming Pacers president Kevin Pritchard.
  • The Bucks worked out a handful of NCAA seniors today, with the full list of players available at the team’s official website. Milwaukee will pick No. 17 in this year’s draft.

Pistons Notes: Baynes, Caldwell-Pope, MLE, Draft

Aron Baynes probably won’t decide whether to opt out of his contract for next season until close to the June 20th deadline, according to Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press. The back-up center is set to make $6.5MM next year, but has the chance to get a much larger payday on the open market. He is considered one of the top reserve big men in the league, averaging 4.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 72 games this season. The Pistons are limited in their offer because they only hold Early Bird Rights on Baynes. That means they can go over the cap, but can only give him a 175% raise, which would amount to about $11.3MM for next season. “He’s enjoyed himself there,” said Baynes’ agent, Entersport Management president Marc Fleisher. “He likes [Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy], he likes the organization, but he’s also got to consider the financial ramifications.”

There’s more news out of Detroit:

  • Restricted free agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has an evidentiary hearing set for May 18th in connection with his March arrest for DUI, Ellis adds in the same piece. Caldwell-Pope may face a suspension from the league if he is convicted.
  • Pistons GM Jeff Bower is considering the $8.4MM mid-level exception as a way to upgrade the roster, Ellis writes in a separate story. Detroit has made good use of the MLE in the past, signing Chauncey Billups in 2002 and Antonio McDyess in 2004, but Ellis notes that the league’s changing salary structure has made it harder to find good players at that level. He mentions Boston’s James Young and Golden State’s Ian Clark as possible targets.
  • The Pistons will face difficulty in building a contender without a high draft pick on the roster, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Detroit’s highest draftees are Caldwell-Pope and Stanley Johnson, who went with the eighth pick in their respective drafts. Andre Drummond, who was taken ninth in 2012, and Marcus Morris, who went 14th in 2011, are the Pistons’ only other lottery picks. “We’re one of two teams that don’t have a top-seven pick anywhere on their roster,” Van Gundy said. Detroit is slotted at No. 12 heading into the May 16th lottery.

Central Notes: Pistons, Baynes, Shumpert

At the end of the Pistons‘ season last month, president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy vowed that changes were coming for the team, but there’s not necessarily an obvious path for the team to make personnel changes, contends Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.

In Langlois’ view, it’s obvious that the Pistons need to add some scoring punch, perhaps in the form of three-point shooting. However, the team’s top three-point shooter – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – will be a restricted free agent, and re-signing him will likely limit Detroit’s ability to add another impact scorer, since most of the team’s other rotation players are under contract.

One Pistons regular not under contract for next season is Aron Baynes, and his player option decision will play a part in how the club approaches the offseason. According to Vince Ellis of The Detroit News (Twitter link), Baynes’ agent said today that his client figures to mull his decision on that option right up until the June 20 deadline.

Here’s more on the Pistons and a couple of their Central rivals:

  • In a separate piece for Pistons.com, Langlois details the recent history of “mystery men” in the first round of the NBA draft, and wonders if the Pistons might be the team to roll the dice on a relative unknown this June.
  • The trial date for Cavaliers swingman Iman Shumpert is set for June 26, meaning it won’t happen until after the season is over, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Shumpert is facing charges of driving while under the influence of marijuana, and would face a penalty from the NBA if it’s not his first offense.
  • Gretchen Ehlke of The Associated Press (link via The Journal-Sentinel) provides an update on the Bucks‘ new arena, which is currently under construction and remains on track to open for the team’s 2018/19 season.
  • On Tuesday night, we passed along word that Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue reached out to Kevin Garnett during the regular season about the possibility of an NBA comeback.
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