Phoenix Suns backup center Aron Baynes is anxious to resume the best season of his career to help the Suns on their improbable playoff push, but is still physically recovering from a terrible bout with the novel coronavirus.
Baynes recently talked about getting his butt kicked by the virus in June, probably soon after he went public on his very personal support of the #BLM movement, and had only started conditioning exercises again in late July.
He joined the team just a week ago, a few days after Ricky Rubio, but unlike Ricky had no chance to practice five-on-five before the real games started on last Friday.
Now, Monty Williams is skeptical about Baynes’ availability despite listing him on the active roster for each of the games so far.
“That’s the problem that we all have right now,” Williams said last weekend. “There’s not a lot of time for practice. We’re trying to figure out ways to get him some reps. If you can’t play five-on-five, we can’t just throw you in a game. I don’t want to put a guy out there that’s not ready.”
Now that games are coming every other day, the team uses off days for film review and light practice so they are fresh again for the next game. And in the Bubble, with the whole team is probably more sore than usual after each game, so full-bore, five-on-five practice is even less likely.
Yet, I’m sure that Baynes and the Suns mutually want to find a way to get him ready for games. While Dario Saric has shined in his minutes as the small-ball backup five when Deandre Ayton sits, Frank Kaminsky has struggled.
Saric has been on fire, making 64 percent of his shots, including three of six threes and all eight free throws, while grabbing seven rebounds per game in his 25 minutes. I love me some herky jerky Super Dario as a playmaker in that second unit when Ricky or Devin (or both) are resting.
But Frank, on the other hand, has struggled in his minutes. Kaminsky is shooting 40 percent from the field, missed all five of his threes, and grabs only two rebounds per game in 10 minutes.
Plus, while Dario has played spirited and effective defense in the Bubble against forwards and centers alike, Frank has been blown by on dribble drives regularly and doesn’t seem to have the bounce to grab rebounds in traffic.
No disrespect to Frank here. It just is what it is. Kaminsky himself is recovering from a painful knee problem that required invasive surgery and hadn’t played since Jan. 3, so I’d rather let him continue his rehab back to full strength for the 2020-21 season than struggle here while the Suns are fighting for wins.
Baynes will not be at full strength, though, either. Not having shot the ball much over the break — yes, I’m sure he took a bunch of shots during quarantine, but not in a real training setting! — I worry that Baynes threes won’t be any better than Frank’s. Baynes recently discovered three-point shooting is all about balance and legs, and he already showed us a dead-shot period in January after coming back from an earlier injury.
But Aron Baynes could at least play defense in short bursts for 10 minutes a game in Frank’s role, couldn’t he? Sure he might have similar loss of lateral-movement as Frank, given his conditioning levels, and was never built to defend the perimeter anyway. But I’ve seen what Frank can bring these days and I’d rather try to something new.
I’m not sure the Suns need Aron Baynes or Frank Kaminsly against the Clippers today, though.
The Clips are without whirling dervish Montrez Harrell, so they play the huge Ivica Zubac in a starting role and spot the aging Joakim Noah as their backup. The two 7-foot Clippers combine for less than 30 minutes per game total, meaning they spend almost as much time in small ball lineups than with a big burly center. You can do that when your wings are 6’8” Kawhi Leonard and 6’10” Paul George.
For a good portion of the game, the Clippers run Patrick Patterson or JaMychal Green as the big around jumbo wings Leonard, George and Marcus Morris. Green and Patterson are stretch bigs these days, so Dario could end up being the perfect counter to them rather than Baynes.
Still, there will be moments where Ayton and Dario need a breather. And in those moments, I’d rather trot out the hope of good Aron Baynes than the current reality of Frank Kaminsky. I’d love for Frank to prove me wrong. I really would. But on the likely chance he can’t prove me wrong quite yet, let’s see some Boomer minutes!