A Response to Dave, Regarding Bayless

What follows is a repost of a long comment to Dave in his front-page Mailbag.  The minute I hit post and saw how much I had written, I felt it was appropriate to repost this as a Fanpost.  Apologies if anyone is offended.  My point is less about giving Dave a hard time, and more about trying to summarize the case for Bayless' season and future prospects being significantly undervalued by many were at Blazer's Edge.  I hope we can have some polite and intelligent discussion below.  If you don't have patience to read this whole post I hope you will at least read the last part where I summarize Bayless' performance since the Blake trade.  Thanks!

E tu, Dave?

I must say that I find your take on Bayless more than a little annoying. It is fine to disagree, but the manner of your disagreement seems to diminish what Bayless has accomplished and dismiss those of us who have been making logical, statistically backed arguments on his behalf. I don’t think it is fair to lump such arguments under the heading “Next Big Thing.” There is a difference between spouting opinions and attempting to provide fact based analysis.

I have been jumping up and down about Bayless since shortly after he was drafted, because I believe the league has moved in a direction that places a premium on having a PG who can penetrate and score, and because I thought PG defense was one of the team’s major weaknesses. I think it would be fair to characterize most of my posts last season as being about “potential.” You may be right that it is dangerous, or pointless, for fans to try to predict the future. I certainly would acknowledge that fans are frequently wrong in our attempts to prognosticate.

This season, however, I think my posts have taken a decidedly different tack: I have not been talking about potential, I have been talking about what Bayless has been doing on the floor. I believe that you and a host of other fans seem to significantly undervalue what Bayless has accomplished in difficult circumstances:

1) Inconsistent role and minutes: I believe it is fair to say that no player on the roster has seen more fluctuation in role and minutes than Bayless. He has gone from scrap minutes as the 5th guard; to back-up SG (when Rudy was hurt); to back-up PG (when Blake got sick); to starting SG (when Roy was hurt); to combo guard (when Blake and Rudy came back); and now back to back-up PG. He has played more than 24 minutes in 14 games; played between 12 and 24 minutes in 28 games; and played less than twelve minutes, or not at all, in 20 games.

2) Dramatic improvement: Bayless PER has improved more than any player on the Blazers, and more than any PG in the NBA, from 8.7 to 16.0. That rating places him 22 among all PGs in the league. Fifth among the bumper crop of young PGs drafted in the past three years. 20 of the 21 guys ahead of him are starters.

Bayless’ TS% has increased from a weak .485 last season to an excellent rating of .545, which is better than the .531 Brandon Roy accomplished as a 23 year old in his second season; better than the .533 rate of Andre Miller this season. Bayless’ TS% is better than D Rose, R Westbrook, or T Evans three of the four PGs ahead of him in terms of PER. On a Per 36 Minute basis, Bayless is the Blazers second leading scorer behind Roy.

Bayless ability to get to the line isn’t just good it is exceptional. He is averaging 7.4 FTA Per 36 Minutes of PT. I know that many dismiss Per 36 Minute stats, however, if you consider that nearly half of Bayless total PT this season has come as a starter, and if you look at the actual list of players who have accomplished this feat, you see that this is some rare and distinguished company. In the past ten years, among first and second year guards, only five players who averaged more than 15 min/game have exceeded 6 FTA/36: Dwayne Wade, Jerryd Bayless, Devin Harris, Vince Carter and Tyreke Evans.

Without actually saying it, you seem to suggest that you are highly skeptical of Bayless’ ability to become the teams starting PG. You suggest that the team should look seriously at Rudy or Nic as possible answers at the point. I think such a suggestion is extremely problematic.

I would argue that Bayless, even given his lack of experience as a PG, is closer to being a decent distributor than either Rudy or Nic, and closer to being a quality PG defender than Rudy is likely to ever become. Bayless isn’t a good distributor yet, but the stats certainly suggest he is better than many are giving him credit for:

1) Since the Blake trade, Bayless has averaged 5.2 Assists/36 minutes of PT: This isn’t fantastic, but it certainly isn’t terrible. It is very comparable to other young scoring PGs like Rose, Evans, Stuckey, and Flynn.

2) Bayless Assist% at 22.3 is in the same range as Blake’s (22.7) and Roy’s (23.8) and is far better than Rudy’s (13.5) or Nic’s (9.3). If we don’t have time to wait for Bayless to develop improved PG skills, what makes so many confident that Rudy or Nic could make that transition any faster. In addition, Bayless’ TOV% (12.3) is lower than Rudy’s (14.3) or Andre’s (14.4), and only slightly higher than Nic’s 10.6 which isn’t surprising given that Nic handles the ball significantly less.

3) Bayless’ line since the All- Star break has been impressive: Shooting 49% from the field and 7-15 from 3pt. range and over 87% from the line. He has scored 9.5 points per game on only 16 minutes per game. On a per 36 minute basis that would be 21 points and 5.2 assists per game.

I guess what I am trying to say is that people should discuss Bayless based on what he has actually done on the floor this year rather than on some preconceived notion based on his play last year. Bayless is a relatively green 21 year old who is just now being given consistent minutes at back-up PG. The rush to judgement seems silly.

There is certainly room for discussion on whether or not Bayless will develop into an effective distributor. It isn’t certain one way or the other. There is a lot of reason for optimism and at least a bit of patience. Let’s see how Bayless does for the rest of the season before we go discussing trade proposals for other young PGs, who are not any more proficient, or for journeyman who do not have any where near Bayless’ upside potential.

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