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Category → Detroit MLE Dreams

Detroit MLE Dreams: Tracy McGrady

Essentials

Position: SG/SF

Height: 6-foot-8

Weight: 223 pounds

Years pro: 13

Age: 31

What he brings

Pros

  • Darfur, man. Darfur.
  • Everyone (annoyingly) quotes the Iverson ‘practice’ video relentlessly, but the T-Mac ‘It’s my fault‘ clip is — I’ll say it — the most underrated video in the history of players passive aggressively ranting at the media clips.
  • Despite missing the entire first half of last season, and despite losing a step or six over the past few seasons, McGrady was still nearly voted into the All-Star Game. I’m not making the case he was deserving, but I am making the case that a lot of people still like watching him play basketball.
  • During a recent workout with the Chicago Bulls, while T-Mac showed the explosion he was known for is gone, he did show a good shooting touch according to scouts, and perimeter shooting just happened to be a weakness for the Pistons last season.
  • Uh … Darfur anyone?
  • Sorry, that’s all I’ve got on this one.

Cons

How he fits

I’m not fooling anyone. There’s no real way McGrady fits with the Pistons. But Joe Dumars said the team planned to use its mid-level exception, and if we have to delve into the merits of every Tom, Dick and Louis Amundson on the market, we’re going to do it.

Why did I pick McGrady? For starters, I kind of love him. I’m a sucker for redemption stories, and what would be a better redemption story than McGrady joining the Pistons, the team that he made his infamous ‘feels great to be in the second round‘ comments about a tad prematurely in 2003, then finally ridding himself of those ‘T-Mac can’t get out of the first round’ accusations by showing up in fantastic shape, recapturing his old form and leading the Pistons into the playoffs and to a first round upset of … I don’t know … let’s say Chicago.

McGrady would definitely get t-shirts printed that say ‘second round.’ And you know you’d probably buy one. The second round would be like winning a title for T-Mac.

Do I have any serious analysis? I’ll give it a shot. McGrady has not found a team for similar reasons that Shaquille O’Neal has not found a team. They are trapped in 2002 when they were both young, alpha-dog superstars and can’t come to grips with the fact that not only are they role players now, they are going to be paid like role players. It’s easy for us to sit back and say, “well, they made their money, why not take less and try to win?” It’s not about the money, it’s about the prestige of being paid and respected like the stars that they are in their own minds.

Best case scenario for McGrady, no matter who he signs with? He comes in in fantastic shape, he comes in with a chip on his shoulder because of the perceived disrespect of no teams wanting to sign him, he takes a one year deal for a few million, he stays healthy and he shows that he can still hit his jumper at a reasonable clip (shouldn’t be a problem since he’s taller than a lot of wing players and should get some looks as a result of that) and, in the right situation, can occasionally get to the basket and finish.

If McGrady can score 10-15 points per game in 25ish minutes a night — and if he’s healthy, I wouldn’t bet against it — he still has a bit of value. Where do the Pistons come in? If they get him on a one-year deal for a portion of the mid-level, he can come in and push incumbent vets Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton.

Basically, tell them the team has starting caliber minutes for one of them. All three are coming off of unproductive and/or injury plagued seasons. The starting spot and big minutes go to the one of them who comes in in the best shape, who shows that he still has the most left to contribute and the one who is hungriest to earn/keep a job. The rest of the minutes will go to young players.

If the player who wins that job happens to be McGrady, then great. He re-asserts himself as a decent NBA player, he has value because his deal is affordable, and with Prince and Chris Wilcox, he gives the Pistons a third expiring contract that can be used as an asset at the trade deadline. If they don’t trade him, he plays a full season in Detroit, is semi-productive and he gets paid a little bit more by a team that wants him next season.

Why he doesn’t fit

That’s a pretty out-there scenario I just cooked up, even for someone as versed in reader alienation as I am. McGrady has been not just injured, but chronically injured the past two years. He also has a lot of mileage as a result of carrying Orlando/shooting like 50 times a game for most of his career.

The Pistons don’t need wing help, they need frontcourt help. McGrady hasn’t had the reputation of always being the greatest teammate. And the Pistons have two young wings in Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko who have a hard enough time getting minutes as is, without another broken down veteran in front of them.

There are so many good reasons not to sign McGrady that I won’t bother listing them all, but he does kind of fit the profile of guys Joe Dumars used to look for — cheaper players with something to prove.

Signability

Money is important to McGrady. I can’t see him signing for the minimum, and I’m not saying it’s greed that prevents him from doing that as much as pride. Max players always see themselves as max players. The money is great, but the respect that goes with that max contract is equally as ego-building.

If I were convinced that McGrady could contribute, I’d offer a one-year deal at a million or so over the vets’ minimum. I have to believe that would be the absolute most money anyone would pay him, but it’s not back-breaking, it’s not the full mid-level and if he’s remotely productive, it’s good value.

Conclusion

If the Shaq post was an unlikely scenario, McGrady to the Pistons is about as far-fetched as it gets. The Pistons obviously could still use a big, and if free agency is the route they are going to go, I would guess that the conversations about the merits of guys like Josh Boone or Brian Skinner are not particularly exciting.

Signing a guy like McGrady is a definite gamble, but at worst, he’s unproductive but still a small expiring contract on the bench if the team is in a position to make a trade at the deadline and needs more salary filler. At best, he becomes moderately productive and entices a contender in need of bench scoring to give up a pick or young player for him midseason. It’s highly likely that the Pistons roster is set right now, but if they did make a signing, taking a gamble on McGrady would be more interesting than one of the low-ceiling bigs still available.

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Detroit MLE Dreams: Shaquille O’Neal

Essentials

Position: Center

Height: 7-foot-1

Weight: 325 pounds

Years pro: 18

Age: 38

What he brings

Pros

  • Shaq might be the best free agent still available. He’s definitely the biggest name.
  • This is a dangerous game to play, but Shaq is only a season removed from averaging 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while leading the league with a .609 field-goal percentage.
  • You can still throw the ball to Shaq in the post and expect a basket.
  • He’s big and and strong and has the awareness to effectively defend back-to-the-basket big men.
  • He’s still a good defensive rebounder.
  • He doesn’t block as many shots as he did earlier in his career, but he’s still good at it.

Cons

  • Allen Iverson. Enough said for Pistons fans.
  • With his lack of mobility, Shaq is a terrible pick-and-roll defender in a pick-and-roll league.
  • He could be aging quickly, if that hasn’t happened already.

How he fits

Although he might, Ben Wallace probably won’t handle 28.6 minutes per game as well as he did last year. That leaves the Pistons in need of more help at center. Maybe Jason Maxiell playing well at center last season wasn’t a fluke. Maybe Greg Monroe can handle big minutes at the position.

But Monroe has never played an NBA game, and at 6-foot-7, Maxiell probably can’t succeed against starting centers.

So, the Pistons probably should look for another center.

Ideally, that player is younger than 38 and has a chance to be solid after Wallace retires. But beggars can’t be choosers.

The Pistons are desperate for an inside scoring threat, and O’Neal would provide that. He can also help Detroit defend big, low-post threats. Wallace can also do that, but giving that assignment to just one player is usually asking for a problem.

Shaq has a wide frame and could use that to clear interior defenders away from the basket while Rodney Stuckey drives to the hoop. Or Shaq could just clog the lane. Given the alternative is Ben Wallace, whom defenders don’t have to respect at all, I’d take my chances Shaq could help Stuckey offensively.

But really, given other free agents don’t near the talent of Shaq, the bigger question is about off-the-court fit. Shaq can be egotistical, stubborn, lazy, high-maintenance and a complete distraction. I’m not sure his talent outweighs those issues anymore.

Speaking of weight, that’s always an issue with Shaq. It’s especially worrisome now, given his aging knees will be less capable of supporting his large frame. I doubt Shaq will cut weight, especially for a non-contender.

Is that the type of example you want to send to the team’s younger players?

In other words

John Krolik, who also runs Cavs the Blog, analyzed Shaq for ProBasketballTalk:

He is one of the most dominant players to ever step onto an NBA court, he’s a four-time NBA champion, and he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame when he retires.

Of course, none of that mattered when the Cavaliers played the Celtics in last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. O’Neal stopped the ball on offense, couldn’t score on Kendrick Perkins, and the Celtics completely exposed O’Neal defensively. In that series, O’Neal looked like a post-up dinosaur watching a drive-and-kick league pass him by.

The few post-up threats remaining are players like Pau Gasol or Dwight Howard, both of whom are athletic enough to be effective on both offense and defense even if they aren’t being force-fed in the post. Shaq needs his team to adjust its game-plan to his strengths in order for him to be effective, and that puts him at a significant disadvantage in today’s NBA.

At this point in his career, Shaq is a very good situational player. There are still some things he can do as well as anybody else in the league can, but his strengths can’t cover up his limitations as easily as they once did. Against some lineups, Shaq can be invaluable. Against others, he should hardly see the floor. If Shaq can come to terms with the player he is now, he’ll be a very good pickup for the team that signs him. If not, his pride may force him into retiring when he can still contribute to an NBA squad.

Signability

I think Shaq wants three things:

  • To play for a contender
  • Money (in the form of a multi-year contract)
  • A starting job (or maybe major minutes off the bench behind a proven starter)

I have no idea how he ranks those three (his camp is pushing that playing for a contender matters most, but that could just be an image thing), but the Pistons can offer the latter two.

They’re obviously not a contender, but they have as much money that they’re willing to spend as almost any team in the league. And give the organization’s history, I don’t think Detroit is rushing to give Greg Monroe a starting job. Playing time? Sure. But starting? I don’t think they want to hand him that just yet.

So, who are Shaq’s main suitors? From Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Mavericks have abandoned the idea of a Shaq signing completely — “He is out,” according to one team source — since they have four centers currently on the roster until they can move the very available Alexis Ajinca. Atlanta, then, stands as the only team with a confirmed “live” interest in O’Neal. But Shaq, at last report, still wants assurances of a healthy slice of playing time as well as a salary that starts above the $5.8 million mid-level exception, which can be achieved through a sign-and-trade with Cleveland. No team out there, including Atlanta, is known to be willing to pay Shaq more than $2 million for next season.

 The Celtics have re-emerged in the Shaq rumors, too, according to Tim Povtak of AOL FanHouse.

Still, I see only teams willing to offer 2-of-3 things on his wish list, just like the Pistons can. It’s a matter of what Shaq values most.

Conclusion

I don’t think there’s much of a chance Shaq joins the Pistons, but he’s probably the best free agent left.  I hope Detroit at least takes a long look at him.

If I were Joe Dumars, I’d offer Shaq a one-year deal the for the full mid-level exception. Pitch it as a chance to prove to contenders the following year why they should want him, and explain that he’d likely start (even though he wouldn’t play typical starter minutes). At minimum, Shaq on that deal would be a valuable trade chip near the deadline.

I wouldn’t expect Shaq to accept that offer, but if I’m the Pistons, I’d only take him on my terms.

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Detroit MLE Dreams: Louis Amundson (Updated with more from Schwartz)

Essentials

Position: Power forward/ center

Height: 6-foot-9

Weight: 238 pounds

Years pro: Four

Age: 27

What he brings

Pros

  • Only nine qualifying players had higher shot-blocking percentages last year than Amundson, who posted a 4.4. Even though Amundson didn’t play enough to be a league leader, his career percentage of 4.5 indicates his blocking ability is no fluke.
  • He’s a good rebounder – offensively and defensively, but more so offensively.
  • He’s pretty quick for his size.
  • He’s tough, gritty and hustles.
  • He was good on the pick-and-roll last year, according to Synergy, but I’m going to chalk that up to Steve Nash and think there’s minimal chance Amundson would continue that in Detroit.
  • He seems fun.
  • Amundson averaged 11.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes last season.

Cons

  • Although his per-36-minute stats seem impressive, I’m not sure they’d be sustainable in Detroit if Amundson was given a larger role. One, the Suns had more possessions per 36 minutes than the Pistons likely will. Two, he averaged 5.2 fouls per 36 minutes (which was actually below his career average). Three, I’m not sure he could sustain his energy level for big minutes. He only once played more than 25 minutes last year.
  • His actual numbers this season – career-bests no less – were 4.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.
  • At power forward, his PER was 17.6 and his counterpart’s was 19.1, according to 82games. The difference was even worse at center, where his PER was 7.9 and his opponent’s was 18.6.
  • His two-year adjusted plus-minus is –5.93, according to BasketballValue.com.
  • Basically, he has no refined offensive skills.
  • A large chunk of his attempts come on putbacks, but he only scored .94 points per possession on offensive rebounds – 153rd in the league, according to Synergy.
  • His defensive-rebounding percentage rose considerably this year after being disappointing for a big man the previous two years. Which was the fluke?
  • He gave up a lot of points per possession on isolation defense, according to Synergy, but I think that’s largely due to Phoenix’s flawed defense, which often had him switching to guards and small forwards. (For what it’s worth, the Pistons don’t switch as often – part of the reason they allowed opponents to shoot so well behind the 3-point arc.)

How he fits

Amundson isn’t an ideal fit.

He took off in Phoenix’s up-tempo system, and I have some doubts about how he’d translate into a half-court scheme. He was quick enough to move around in the open court and strong enough to punish opponents physically with the Suns. But I’m not sure he can dole out – and sustain – similar punishment in the crowded lanes created by slow-temp teams like the Pistons.

He’d also be yet another power forward who’s probably a good backup but too flawed to be a reliable starter at the position right now. See Charlie Villanueva, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell and Chris Wilcox.

But Amundson is big, not old and one of the better free agents still available. The fit isn’t that egregious where he makes no sense.

The Pistons desperately need someone to protect the rim when Ben Wallace is out of the game. I’d prefer they get someone who can also do other things, but Amundson can at least do that.

In other words

Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns was tied up with the Suns hiring Lon Babby yesterday. He plans to provide us more info on Amundson in the next couple days. But in the meantime, he answered one question I had – can Amundson play center?

Lou at center is really pushing it. He can for stretches in a small ball lineup designed to run your opponent out of the building, but one of the negatives I was going to say is that he can get pushed around by some of the bigger power forwards and he sometimes gets gobbled up by larger centers. He does a lot of center-like things in terms of rebounding and blocking shots, but he can certainly be backed down by a true power guy.

UPDATE: More Amundson analysis from Schwartz:

Lou Amundson is your prototypical bench hustle guy. He will come in off the bench and do all the dirty work. He’s been the Suns’ best rebounder for the past two seasons and perhaps their best shot blocker as well. He will have a couple games a month where it looks like he’s running circles around the opposition he gets to so many balls, and he can make a profound impact on a basketball game.

He was great running with the Suns’ defensive-minded second unit. He could often start fast breaks with rebounds or blocked shots and he’s a great finisher at the rim. He is extremely athletic and a great leaper. You likely have seen him in a number of highlights finishing dunks.

The downside is that is where his offensive game begins and ends. He can score you a couple buckets a game on putbacks and in transition, but other than that he is completely non-existent on the offensive end (besides being a good offensive rebounder). He has no post game to speak of and Suns fans groaned any time he attempted a mid-range jumper. His form isn’t terrible and he has been working on it, but the guy at this stage of his career just can’t shoot. He’s also a horrid free-throw shooter (one of the worst in the league) and understandably can disappear on the offensive end.

I would sign him to something like a three-year, $10 million contract if I were a GM. He will be 28 when the season begins, and since he’s a guy who relies solely on athleticism I would be leery of a long contract. About $3 mil a year or so seems fair for a guy with such a limited offensive game. Lou has never really been paid in the NBA so understandably he wants to cash in, but I would not make too big of an investment in the man known as Loooouuuuuuuuuuuuu.

Some other fun Lou facts are that he rode his bike to the arena during the 2008-09 season, which led to the Suns creating a "Lou Amundson Bike Valet" outside of US Airways Center last season. Back in ’08-09 he also pulled a prank on Shaq that either speaks to his courage or stupidity. Lou is a great team guy, and I’m sure his teammates will miss having him around.

In sum, Lou is perfect for the role of energy forward off the bench. He will grab some boards, block some shots and inject electricity into the building. On some nights he can be a real game changer with his hustle a few minutes at a time, just don’t expect anything from him offensively.

Signability

Before the offseason, Schwartz estimated Amundson could command about $10 million over three years. The market may indicate Amundson could get a little more, but he also might be the type of guy who slips through the cracks. I’ll say it will even out and Schwartz’s initial prediction will be pretty close.

Obviously, with the full Mid-Level Exception at their disposal, the Pistons could sign him. That would also leave about half the exception to sign another player or two.

Conclusion

At the beginning of free agency, I would’ve been extremely disappointed if Amundson was Detroit’s top signing. At this point, he might be the best realistic option on the market. For a three year contract, striking out might be better. For a one- or maybe even a two-year deal, Amundson wouldn’t be bad. (Can you hear my excitement?)

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Detroit MLE Dreams: Udonis Haslem

Essentials

Position: Power forward

Height: 6-foot-8

Weight: 235 pounds

Years pro: Seven

Age: 30

What he brings

Pros

  • Haslem is an excellent defender, even against bigger players. He can hold his own in the post and defend the pick-and-roll. Ben Wallace is the only player on the roster who can do both.
  • Already a quality rebounder, Haslem had his best rebounding season last year.
  • He has a solid mid-range spot-up jumper. He also finds ways to get open inside without the ball, and when his teammates find him with a pass, he usually converts.
  • He appears to be a solid team guy, coming off the bench without complaint last year.

Cons

  • He has probably peaked as a player.
  • For being a quality defender, he doesn’t create many turnovers.
  • The Heat ran him off a fair number of screens last year, possibly to keep him involved in the offense. After catching the pass, Haslem typically shot quickly, often missing, according to Synergy.
  • He can’t put the ball on the floor.

How he fits

Very well.

Haslem doesn’t create his own offense, unlike many of Detroit’s key players. And he’s an excellent defender – again, unlike many of Detroit’s key players. Haslem would help the Pistons with many of their deficiencies without adding skills they already have in abundance – which sounds pretty ideal.

The fit isn’t perfect, though. Haslem plays power forward – a crowded, yet underwhelming position for the Pistons. But Charlie Villanueva and Chris Wilcox might be the only two Pistons whose ideal position is power forward.

Villanueva is certainly more talented than Haslem (and Wilcox might be, too, but that’s less relevant). Having a reliable alternative to Villanueva’s wild swings in production would be great directly – and indirectly, it might help Villanueva focus and become a better player.

It’s not ideal, but Haslem can hold his own at center, too. He’s certainly not another Wilcox, who despite being two inches taller than Haslem, was eaten alive while playing center last year. I’d prefer the Pistons sign someone who’s a little more adept at playing center, but Haslem is hardly a liability there.

In other words

Surya Fernandez of Hot Hot Hoops:

Strengths – Solid defender, energy guy who rarely plays out of control or is turnover prone, has a good knack of being at the right place for rebounds, reliable free throw shooter and midrange jumper. Even played center for an entire season which shows how much heart he has. Championship starter in 2006 and has considerable playoff experience.

Weaknesses – Still has a limited offensive game apart from his midrange jumper. Undersized for his position. Shouldn’t be asked to create his own jump shot. Will get a fair amount of shots blocked around the rim because of his size and footwork. Could learn a few fake moves so his offensive game wasn’t so predictable.

Should command about as much as he’s made in his last contract ($6-7 million) and has said he might consider a hometown discount for the Heat.

Signability

With LeBron James and Chris Bosh (and Mike Miller!) joining Dwyane Wade in Miami, Haslem could be the odd man out. For him to stay with the Heat, he’d almost assuredly have to take a minimum contract. A Miami native who played collegiately at Florida, he may take less money to stay with the Heat – but a minimum contract is quite the drop.

I expect to him at least test the market. Returning to Miami for the minimum will always be on the table.

The Pistons have shown interest in Haslem, according to Ted Kulfan of The Detroit News.

Because of his solid, yet low-upside game, Haslem might be the perfect type of free agent for the Pistons – someone worth the full mid-level exception who might not get better offers anywhere else.

I’d be a little concern about paying Haslem $7.6 million when he’s 35, but it’s not outrageous.

Conclusion

Haslem would bring a toughness and energy similar to that of Matt Barnes. And he’d do it at a position of greater need (assuming Tayshaun Prince isn’t traded).

Although Haslem is 30, he’s only spent seven years in the NBA. For a guy who’s played deep into the playoffs, there isn’t that much wear and tear on his body.

Haslem would be a nice, safe signing – and that just might be what Detroit needs.

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Detroit MLE Dreams: Matt Barnes

Essentials

Position: Small forward

Height: 6-foot-7

Weight: 226 pounds

Years pro: Eight

Age: 30

What he brings

Matt Barnes doesn’t really fit into pros and cons, so I’m eschewing them in favor of two looks at Barnes.

The first comes from the Best of Daily Dime post Jared Wade compiled for Hardwood Paroxysm:

[Comment From Dan: ]
barnes isnt making shots but I like his energy

Kevin Arnovitz:
Dan: That will be on his tombstone.

The second is this video of Barnes matching up with Kobe Bryant*:

 

*What Kobe did 2:15 into that video settled the Kobe-LeBron debate for me. It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen on a basketball court. How do you not flinch?! I’ll never doubt Kobe again. It’s the greatest play of our generation. When Kobe enters the Hall of Fame and his highlights are played, that inbounds attempt should be shown on loop. Seriously, I can’t say enough about how amazing that was.

Those two examples paint a more complete picture Barnes better than I ever could.

But I have concerns because of Barnes’ age.

The Barnes that Orlando had last year is relentless. He wore down opponents physically, but his mental edge was probably more important. It’s intimidating to see an opponent hounding you the entire game without any signs of letting up. That’s why I think Barnes at 99 percent is way less valuable than Barnes at 100 percent.

At 30, he might have too many 99-percent nights.

How he fits

In every tangible way, Barnes is a poor fit.

He plays a position where the Pistons have a reliable veteran (Tayshaun Prince, who doesn’t appear to be traded as quickly as many would like) and three youngsters (Jonas Jerebko, Austin Daye and DaJuan Summers) who can play.

Barnes, 30, is also a little old for a rebuilding team.

But he’s tough as nails.

Barnes drew criticism for his play in that Lakers game, because he acted like he’d never been there before – and for the Magic, maybe that made sense.

But these Pistons haven’t been there before. They need to act like they have something to prove. Games against the league’s top teams will be proving grounds next season. Barnes won’t let the Pistons look lifeless in those games, as they did last year.

Also, as you’ll read about in the next section, Barnes’ cutting ability would be a great complement to Greg Monroe’s passing skills. The Princeton offense is based on cutting, and Barnes could help ease Monroe’s transition to the NBA.

In other words

Eddy Rivera of Magic Basketball evaluated Barnes after season:

And he did things, like cutting to the basket when Howard would be looking to pass the basketball out of the post in 4-out/1-in offensive sets, that helped the Magic. But Barnes’ main weakness, was the fact that he wasn’t, and isn’t, a great spot-up shooter.

At times, it seemed like Barnes was overrated on defense. This doesn’t mean that Barnes was a bad defender, on the contrary, but sometimes everyone would make note of his scuffles with Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, and other great scorers during the regular season and ignore some of his weakness defensively.

For example, Barnes’ poor pick and roll defense sticks out like a sore thumb.

Barnes was a perfect sidekick with the starters and his toughness, more than anything else, was a welcomed addition to a team that is criticized many times for being finesse and soft … except against the Celtics apparently. In any case, there are weaknesses to Barnes’ skill-set that can’t be ignored.

I highly recommend you read Rivera’s post for a complete picture of Barnes.

Signability

Barnes probably isn’t worth the full mid-level exception. In this environment, though, that’s what I suspect it would take the Pistons to get him.

The Magic are interested in bringing him back, but they don’t have his Bird rights. So, like Detroit, they have the mid-level exception at their disposal.

Maybe Detroit can negotiate a two- or three-year contract. But it only takes one team to offer more years. I suspect someone will. Maybe it will be the Pistons.

Conclusion

This team needs to get tougher. Maybe last year’s disappointments will fuel a more competitive spirit. But if they won’t, extra steps need to be taken.

Before signing Barnes, Joe Dumars really needs to take the pulse of this team. Do they need a Matt Barnes (because at his cost, Detroit shouldn’t sign him otherwise)?

I’d like to believe the answer is no. But I’m not sure that’s the case.

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Detroit MLE Dreams: Brendan Haywood

Essentials

Position: Center

Height: 7-foot

Weight: 263 pounds

Years pro: Nine

Age: 30

What he brings

Pros

  • Haywood does everything you’d want a traditional center to do.
  • Haywood, who averaged 2.1 blocks per game last year, can be counted to defend the rim.
  • Because of his large frame, he can also keep some of the league’s bigger centers off the blocks – at least sometimes, which is more than the many players masquerading as centers can say.
  • How does someone rank 383rd at for field-goal percentage at the rim and 29th in overall field-goal percentage? He takes 70.3 percent of his shots at the rim – the 22nd-highest clip in the league. Haywood’s offensive game is in the paint. Too many Pistons with the ability to score inside, roam on the perimeter. Haywood doesn’t.
  • He has a nice hook shot and scores efficiently on put-backs. The latter is particularly relevant, given he’s fourth among active players in offensive-rebounding percentage.
  • He’s a solid defensive rebounder, too.

Cons

  • Haywood’s bulk means he’s not the best pick-and-roll defender, which wouldn’t make him a great defensive fit next to Greg Monroe, who will also likely won’t have the versatility to cover quicker players.
  • He has poor hands and isn’t the most adept dribbler. So, he can only take advantage of his hook shot if he has already established good position in the post before the entry pass – and catches it.
  • Haywood is a poor free-throw shooter. So, when the Pistons want a defense-first lineup (assuming Ben Wallace re-signs) late in the game, their opponents will have two great options to intentionally foul.
  • Not that it’s a huge deal given his role, but Haywood basically has no passing skills.

How he fits

I’ve been infuriated by how many people have said the Pistons need to add a big man who can score inside and protect the rim on the other end. So many make it seem like those types of players grow on trees. In reality, they get max contracts.

But Haywood might the most available and affordable of the bunch. He’s exactly the type of player the Pistons need.

He’s a little old, but he would make the team better right away. When Dumars began building the Pistons into a title contender the first time, he traded for a 35-year-old Clifford Robinson. Robinson taught the young Pistons how to play tough defense every night. This group needs a similar lesson, and Haywood could serve as the teacher.

Robinson was never going to be Detroit’s long-term solution at center, but he made the team better. At a certain point, this team needs to make steps to get better, too.

In other words

Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game:

Brendan Haywood is exactly what most teams want in a center. He’s not perfect, but he’s stable, productive, and competent enough to hold his own on both ends while the bigger names steal the show. It’s unlikely that Brendan will ever be the singular force that propels a team to greatness, but he is talented enough to provide the foundation from which stars leap up.

Haywood is not particularly versed as a back-to-the-basket threat (he only scored 0.85 points per possession on his post-up opportunities with the Mavs last season, according to Synergy Sports), but he does finish his open attempts around the hoop and is a solid pick-and-roll finisher. Brendan’s length enhances his finishing abilities even if he’s not a particularly explosive athlete, and he’s mobile enough to give defenses trouble on his rolls to the rim. Ultimately, Haywood makes for a fine complementary offensive player. He’ll prevent opposing centers from helping too aggressively, create a little on his own, and finish his put-backs on offensive rebounds (Brendan was second in the NBA in offensive rebounding rate last season), which is a pretty decent combination of skills for a seven-footer.

Defensively is where Haywood shines, though. He was never really put in a position to succeed during his short time with the Mavs due to the timing of his acquisition and his inconsistent role, but when empowered by his team, Brendan is a defensive force. Dwight Howard once ranked Haywood as the third best defender in the league, and he may not be as far off as you’d think. While the NBA has a number of elite defenders, there are few centers better than Haywood. His impact isn’t as profound as Howard’s, but Brendan was actually a comparable defender to Dwight in most areas of on-ball defense.

Defensive Play Haywood FG% Allowed Haywood PPP Allowed Howard FG% Allowed Howard PPP Allowed
Isolation 39.0% 0.79 48.2% 0.93
Post-Up 42.4% 0.78 34.1% 0.72
P&R Roll 46.8% 0.92 32.6% 0.69
Spot-Up 37.2% 0.83 43.1% 0.91

Note: Dwight Howard’s defensive stats are based on the entire 2009-2010 season, but Haywood’s stats are only from his time with the Mavs.

Brendan isn’t as effective in defending the pick-and-roll nor he is as good of a team defender, but Dwight’s standard in those areas is a tad ridiculous. Instead, whichever team Haywood signs with will have a top-notch on-ball post defender, a good help-side shot-blocker that can erase the mistakes of his teammates on the perimeter, and a good rebounder. What more can you really ask for, especially if Haywood opts to sign somewhere for the mid-level?

Signability

I just don’t see how Detroit can get Haywood for the mid-level exception. I think he’ll command a lot more money that that, but for a second let’s say he slips through the cracks of the teams with cap space. Contenders will offer him the full mid-level, too. Why would he pick Detroit over them?

Haywood appears to be looking for a deal worth at least $10 million per season, according to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. That’s probably a little more than Haywood is worth, but I don’t think it’s more than he’ll get.

If it takes a five- or six-year contract, I’d pass. Three or fewer sounds acceptable. Four is a tossup.

Mahoney said he would be receptive to a sign-and-trade built around Richard Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince, but he thinks it’s less likely the Mavericks would be interested. If they trade Erick Dampier for a center, that would increase Detroit’s chances. Otherwise, Dallas would need Haywood even more.

Conclusion

Haywood is very high on my wish list. I think it’s important to make this team better in the short-term, even if that means pursuing older free agents. An improved Pistons would boost the trade value of all their players and boost morale in a franchise that increasingly appears to be in disarray behind the scenes.

In the end, I think Haywood will be too expensive for Detroit. He’s too good and plays too important a position to land on a rebuilding team without any cap space or premium players to return in a sign-and-trade.

Previous

Introducing Detroit MLE Dreams

If you haven’t been reading Patrick Hayes’ great series on potential Pistons draft picks, you’ve really been missing out. Seriously, go check out all the posts now:

The series has been so great, I’m (semi-shamefully) going to rip it off.

Introducing Detroit MLE Dreams

Since Joe Dumars announced in March the Pistons would use the mid-level exception, there has been a fair amount of speculation about whom he will target. Patrick Hayes ran down a list of potential players, and Mike Payne of Detroit Bad Boys analyzed the available point guards.

Instead of a mass rundown, this series will take an in-depth look at several of Detroit’s potential signees one-by-one.

Projecting the mid-level exception

The first step is projecting how much Detroit will have to spend. The mid-level exception starts at the NBA’s average salary. From Larry Coon’s FAQ:

The league computes the average salary by taking the total salaries paid during the previous season, dividing by 13.2 times the number of teams (other than expansion teams in their first two seasons) and then adding eight percent.

Using salary data from ShamSports.com, the average salary this offseason will be defined as $5,798,000 (assuming Larry Coon’s table indicates the MLE is rounded to the nearest $100,000).

Because a player can receive up to eight-percent raises with a mid-level exception contract, the most the Pistons could offer a player is five years, $33,628,400.

The stakes

The Pistons have a better chance at landing a franchising-altering player with the seventh pick than with the MLE. But the cost of the MLE can be much greater.

The seventh pick will receive about $4.8 million guaranteed for two years. Plus, the Pistons will have options for about $2.7 million and $3.4 million the next two seasons. Then, if Detroit chooses, the player will become a restricted free agent. That’s great value.

Five years, $33,628,400 is much riskier. The Pistons already have Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Richard Hamilton and Jason Maxiell locked up to weighty contracts. Another one could be crippling.

Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus thoroughly analyzed the mid-level exception in 2008. Here’s a sample of his findings:

Through last summer, 49 mid-level-type deals had been signed (including three players–Jerome James, Nazr Mohammed and Joe Smith–who have twice been signed using the exception). As a whole, these players were predictably average the year before they hit free agency, with average ratings of a .505 winning percentage and 3.6 Wins Above Replacement Player.

Actually, because of their minutes played, the group was really more valuable than average before becoming free agents. If salaries and performance were perfectly distributed, a player making the mid-level salary could be expected to add about 2.5 WARP per season. How has the mid-level group done compared to that standard? Not well at all.

Combined, the mid-level free agents have played 160 seasons on their contracts. Of those, 52–less than a third–have been rated as worth at least 2.5 WARP. Performance over the life of the deal is even more striking. Of the 49 players signed using the mid-level exception, just 13 have averaged more than 2.5 WARP per season during the contract. Nearly as many (10) have rated as below replacement level over the course of the deal.

When he announced his intention to use the exception, Dumars noted he’s had success with it in the past. Pelton agreed, rating Chauncey Billups as ”far and away the best player ever signed for the mid-level” and Antonio McDyess the fifth best.

Once again, any faith in the Pistons turning around is based on moves Dumars made long ago, not recently. After all, the last player he signed with the MLE was Nazr Mohammed.

The opportunity

Because the MLE is based on contracts signed years ago and the salary cap is based on last year’s revenue, the value of the exception is at an all-time high.

The NBA projected the salary cap will be $56.1 million next year, which is down from last year. But the contracts signed years ago weren’t based on the cap going down. So, this year’s MLE is worth a higher percentage of the salary cap than ever before.

Summer MLE Salary cap Percent
2010 $5,798,000 $56,100,000 10.3
2009 $5,854,000 $57,700,000 10.1
2008 $5,585,000 $58,680,000 9.5
2007 $5,356,000 $55,630,000 9.6
2006 $5,215,000 $53,135,000 9.8
2005 $5,000,000 $49,500,000 10.1

Is that significant enough to make a difference? I’m not sure. But I’d rather have the MLE to spend this year than 2008.

What to expect

The coming individual analysis will focus on what each player would bring and how he’d fit with the Pistons. Synergy will certainly play a part in the analysis. And I’ll try to get the TrueHoop Network blogger of each player’s current team to contribute, too.

Obviously, the focus will be on big men and point guards. I have a few players in mind, but let me know in the comments who you’d like to see me profile.