While the Cougars backcourt will be hurting with the loss of both Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver, their frontcourt will once again be anchored by the big Australian native. Baynes returns as the teams leading scorer and rebounder despite playing just 24 minutes per game last season. One of the more fundamental players in the Pac-10 this season, Baynes will almost assuredly see an increase in playing time (assuming he managed to stay out of foul trouble), and his offensive output should improve as well.
Baynes is a physical presence and an absolute beast at the college level. Standing a legit 610 and packing on 270 pounds, he is a handful on the block for most defenders. While his strength and toughness are certainly NBA caliber, the rest of his physical attributes are not. He is a little undersized for a traditional post up player and he has little athleticism to speak of. Baynes isnt a threat in the transition game, often lumbering up the floor or trailing a break, and his leaping ability is poor. Unless he has a clear lane with space to work with, he isnt likely to dunk the ball due to his lack of explosiveness.
When we look at Baynes offensively, we are dealing with a player who almost exclusively functions within eight feet of the basket. He is an extremely fundamental player but he lacks any real creativity with his post moves. His bread and butter is a drop step into a jump hook, which while very effective when he has it going, can just as easily be shut down by bigger, athletic defenders.
Baynes shows excellent touch around the basket, even with contact, connecting on 60% of his field goal attempts last season. It isnt uncommon to see him take a bump seven or eight feet from the rim and still knock down his jump hook. He absolutely needs to add more to his low post repertoire though; while he has been able to get away with this move against smaller defenders (14 points against Tyler Hansbrough) he struggled mightily against true centers (combined 15 points in 3 games vs. the Lopez twins). Averaging just one assist to every five turnovers, Baynes obviously has a lot of work to do on his ability to read defenses and find the open man.
Certainly something coaches love to see from players like Baynes is how often they get to the line. The senior averaged nearly 7 free throw attempts per 40 minutes thanks to his tremendous aggressiveness around the rim. He does a great job of getting position on defenders and then driving through them. Baynes doesnt always get bailed out by foul calls, though, and this results in some difficult looks at the basket due to his poor leaping ability.
Where Baynes absolutely must improve is in his ability to step away from the basket. As previously mentioned, he almost exclusively plays around the rim, so we havent gotten very many opportunities to see him shoot the basketball; but if his 66% free throw shooting percentage is any indication, he has both potential in this area and some work to do before he is a threat to score from the mid-range. Solely overpowering defenders will not be as easy at whatever level Baynes moves onto from here, so developing that jump-shot will be a key for him.
Defensively, Baynes makes his presence felt at the collegiate level. He holds his position very well, rarely getting backed down by opponents, forcing them to either shoot over him or take a tough angled shot. As one would expect of a player like Baynes who lacks great quickness, he struggles against more versatile big men who can step away from the basket and attack off the dribble. He does do a good job on the defensive glass though, able to keep opponents on his back. His aggressiveness limits him at times, though, as he proved to get into foul trouble a lot, picking up a foul just about every 8 minutes.
Baynes is likely a long shot for the NBA, as there are some very obvious question marks about how hell fare against the much more athletic and talented big men that the League is known for. He is a man amongst boys at the NCAA level-- a strong, physical player who lacks versatility in his offensive game and has limited potential defensively, and doesnt sport the type of upside youll find in other collegiate big man prospects. Certainly an asset at the collegiate level, he will likely have a terrific senior season, being more than capable of averaging a double-double in the Pac-10. Baynes toughness and coveted ability to score with his back to the basket probably makes him a better fit for a team in high-level Europe or in his native Australia when his time with Washington State is done. Regardless, he will get invites to settings like Portsmouth and possibly the pre-draft camp to show that he is capable of reaching higher.