Baynes rising from the NBA ashes with Phoenix


The Suns have also surprised with seven wins, four losses, placing them fifth in the talent-stacked Western Conference.

You could say Baynes has been a Phoenix rising from the ashes.

In June the 32-year-old Queenslander’s career hit an unexpected speed bump when the Boston Celtics, looking to shed salary, traded Baynes to the then-dismal Suns.

Phoenix thought Baynes could add some defensive toughness and be a mentor to their elite young centre DeAndre Ayton.

The Australian opened the season on the bench but, when Ayton was suspended on October 24 for 25 games for testing positive for a diuretic, Baynes became the starter and his stats exploded.

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Baynes has career averages during his eight NBA seasons of 5.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game.

This year with the Suns he is averaging 15 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists.

Baynes, with his red Ned Kelly beard and huge 208cm tall, 118kg frame, was known for his brutish blue-collar play – rebounding, setting screens and putting his body on the line protecting the rim.

Today, he is one of the NBA’s best three-point shooters after devoting hundreds of hours in the gym practising the shot.

He has sunk 22 of 47 three-point attempts this season – a 46.8 per cent success rate that places him 14th among the NBA’s best long-range shooters.

It is a stunning turnaround from his first five seasons with the San Antonio Spurs and Detroit Pistons when he only took seven three-pointers and did not make any.

Baynes is also one of the most effective scorers around the basket.

He is in the NBA’s top five for most efficient scorers in the pick and roll, on the post and other statistics.

Williams also points to the leadership of Baynes on the court, particularly on defence where he is vocal directing his younger teammates.

“Aron usually calls that stuff out,” Williams said.

“He’s like a middle linebacker.”

All-Star selection might be a stretch although Baynes is a legitimate candidate for most improved.

He becomes a free agent at the end of the season and his price tag is expected to be a substantial upgrade on the $5.5m ($A8.1m) he will earn this season.

“[Baynes] is positioning himself for well over $US10 million per year,” an NBA team executive told The Athletic.

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