Allen Crabbe, Harrison Barnes, Timofey Mozgov, and Evan Turner. What do they all have in common? They got.. PAID.
Hold the hysterical laughter, but why didn’t Bayless?
Why I think Jerryd Bayless has more upside as a starting guard than other backups coming into a starting role, like Darren Collison, and more than the other free agent guards available on the market this offseason…
Jerryd Bayless can drive, he can dunk, he can dish (on occasion), he can defend and he can shoot like a starting point guard. While many teams settle for floor generals that can do three or four of these things, Bayless is the rare combo-guard that touches on or can do all five. He even possesses a 6th talent, one not often prioritized but awfully important to the game. Basketball IQ. Known to be close with his former coach from Milwaukee, Jason Kidd and Bayless got along because of it. The coach often praised Bayless, comparing him to a baseball player that can play wherever asked, infield or outfield, as the coach rotated him back and forth between guard positions. (Kidd often put the keys in Bayless’ hands towards the end of games and the two could always be seen joking around with and consulting each other in timeouts or pregame.)
With a four-game winning streak on the line in Brooklyn, Kidd needed someone experienced to make some plays. Bayless responded with 19 points and 10 assists.
“We talked as a team; I needed someone to step up,” coach Jason Kidd said. “It had to be someone to get the pace going and get it in our favor…. Bayless gave us a spark.”
And on January 27th, he carried (that’s right carried) the team down the stretch in a 109-102 win over Miami. In that particular game, Kidd put his faith in his guard to maintain what looked to be a disappearing lead in the fourth quarter. Bayless responded by going 5-7 for 11 points with 3 assists and 0 turnovers to close the game. (per behindthebuckspass.com)
However, despite the repertoire he had with Kidd, Bayless had outplayed his contract by the end of the year. Milwaukee fans entered the offseason, assuming his three-million-dollar price tag would increase significantly. And anything above five million per year would be too much for a bench player, behind their new starting ball-handler, the Greek freak, and a cast of backcourt characters including the 76ers own Michael Carter-Williams. In fact, his spot on the depth chart seems to be the only reason Jerryd Bayless has been exchanged between so many different teams (now joining his seventh after eight years in the Association).
After being projected to go in the top 5 and eventually drafted #11 overall, Jerryd Bayless has only started 81 games in his eight-year career. The reasons being: Brandon Roy, Chris Paul, Demar Derozan, Mike Conley, Rajon Rondo, and most recently a combination of Brandon Knight/Giannis Antetokounmpo.
And to be frank, some of those starters don’t seem like a worthy excuse for keeping Bayless on the bench considering his numbers when playing starters minutes (over 30 minutes per game). Averages like 20 points, 5 assists and 6 rebounds while shooting 46%. How was he just signed for $27 million over three years?
What happened over these eight years? Did he miss his shot? Is it on him that he never saw the minutes he deserved?
Well in his first season, he only played over 20 minutes in 10 games and rode the bench much of the year. Still, in those 10 games, he shot 47% and was a net +59 for the Trail Blazers. In Bayless’ sophomore season, he only played over 30 minutes in 4 games. And in the sole game he played over 40 minutes, against the Spurs, he went off for 31 points and 7 dimes, including the game-winning shot. In year three while in Toronto, despite failing to breach 30 minutes in his first 20 games, he finally got his shot. With starters minutes (30+ mpg) for a short stretch, he promptly put up 68 point, 20 assists, and 11 rebounds over the three games.
Later that season, with eight games to go, he gets another chance to prove his worth. Bayless then backed it up with averages of 23 points and 6 assists over the final stretch to close out the season. Due to further coaching indecision, hovering between 15 and 25 minutes per game, and a shortened lockout season, Bayless only received starter minutes in seven games during 2012. Still, he puts up 22.5 points, 6 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game.
After being traded to Memphis in 2013, he assumes his usual role of backing up the starter (Mike Conley). Just after the All-Star break, he, yet again, breaks into the starting lineup. Averaging 35 mpg for 6 games, he faces off against elite guards including: Jrue Holiday, John Wall, General Greivis (Vasquez), Goran Dragic, and Russell Westbrook. Per usual, Bayless deftly takes care of business, shooting 54% and averaging 18, 5 and 4.
He only plays over 30 mpg in 4 out of the next 34 games (in which he continues to average 20 and 5). Finally, he gets traded to the Boston Celtics to back up Rajon Rondo before packing his bags and heading to the Bucks for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. In Milwaukee, he is moved to a more specific role as a three-point specialist. At that point, he evolves his game to the needs of the team, and he ends up averaging 44% from beyond the arc on just under 4.5 three-point shots per game.
Sounds to me like the Sixers just hit the lottery. And it sounds even more like that when you consider how few upside guards (much less combo-guards) were even available. Rajon Rondo? Hah! He reaches his upside if he’s not an immediate cancer in the locker room. Brandon Jennings, an undersized point who’s only shot over 36% from three once since his rookie season and needs the ball in his hands. Fournier, an admittedly highly skilled player, but also an RFA (Restricted Free Agent) who seemed locked in with the Magic, regardless of outside offer. A string of other possibilities including Philly’s very own Ish Smith, Ramon Sessions, Brian Roberts, Jeremy Lin and… Deron Williams.
And of course last but not least, there was Mike Conley on a 150-million-dollar contract. A guy that is 2 inches smaller, 25 pounds lighter, has a worse assist/turnover rate, and averages just 14 points and 5.5 assists per game over his career. And Conley has started 96% of his games! Again, Bayless when getting starters minutes averaged 20 points, 5 assists, and 6 rebounds.
So, Philly got the best toy from the bargain bin, or maybe the whole bin, but what specific skills does Jerryd Bayless bring to the table?
The man’s got bounce: at just over 200 pounds and 6’-3, his less-than-average wingspan is hidden by his strength and a 38-inch vertical that allows him to do things like this. It also led him to shoot 60% from within three feet of the hoop during his seventh year in the association and his first in Milwaukee. In Milwaukee, where literally no one on the team outside of Kris Middleton could shoot, and everyone and their mother on opposing teams guarded the basket like it was their firstborn!
Bayless can also dish when called upon, especially out of the pick and roll. (Per PhillyMag.com, his turnover rate lowered to 14.5% in his last 4 seasons, and he increased his assist-to-turnover rate to 2.1.) And despite leaning towards a label of a scoring guard, he did average five assists per game on his career when playing starters minutes.
He hits his shots from beyond the arc fairly casually as well. He shot 44% from three last year and averages 37% over his career. He also boasts a refined mid-range game that tends to open up shots for teammates. The guard slashes well and uses his hops to finish consistently at the basket. And he’s an all-out effort kind of guy that uses his weight and quickness to lock down opposing floor generals. In the earlier mentioned stretch of game against Holiday, Wall, Vasquez, Dragic, and Westbrook, those opposing guards shot a combined 40% from the floor and went just 2 for 10 from beyond the arc.
Bayless is finally going to receive the starter minutes he’s been hounding for his entire career. And if he continues to put up the numbers he’s demonstrated he’s capable of, he just may lock up his spot in the lineup of the backcourt-needy Sixers for years to come.
To me, his upside is over 20 points and 5 assists a game with a couple rebounds to boot. Quite a pairing for Ben Simmons, especially for $9 million per year in the midst of an offseason marked by overpaying role players.
*Stats provided by basketball-reference.com