Hornets Season Review: Aaron Gray

When you think of immovable objects some things that come to mind are Andre the Giant, Chuck Norris or Snorlax, the damn Pokemon that just won’t move out of your way. Aaron Gray fits right in line with these individuals sometimes for good, sometimes for bad. However, Gray developed to a point that some consider him a viable backup center.

It was announced recently that Gray has decided to opt-out of his contract to test free-agency. This is no surprise as Gray was only going to make 1.08 million dollars next season.

Aaron showed his capabilities in the Lakers series defending Andrew Bynum with brute force backed up with Newtons theory of relativity. It’s asinine to think that this means he is indeed a great center in this league. While he showed his value in this series he still cannot matchup well with more athletic players in this league. Teams that run the pick-and-roll destroy him and his lateral quickness (or lack there of). We as fans need to remove ourselves from sentiments in the form of the Lakers playoff series. While it did show his potential it also increased his value well above what it truly is.

Can he become a capable backup center? Yes sir/madam he can. He has the tools, the size, the skill set (he’s more capable around the basket than some think) and he has the potential. What he doesn’t have is the conditioning necessary to play at a high level for an 82 game season.

Best Game

No doubt in my mind or others, that Aaron Gray’s best performance this past season was against the Los Angeles Lakers. Emeka Okafor came out and picked up two quick fouls which seemed troublesome at the time because we all knew of the Lakers gargantuan front-line. Gray had the opportunity to prove to Monty Williams that he can play minutes if given to him.

I guess in large part as to why this is his best game was the matchup. The Lakers do not run the pick-and-roll very much. When they do, they don’t do it very well. A lot of their offense is the triangle, post-ups and isolation’s. Because of this, it allowed Gray to utilize his prized asset which was size.

He finished the game with 12 points on 5 shots and surprisingly only 1 rebound. Oh and he had the highest +/- of anyone on the team, on that particular day, +25.

The Season Past and Things to Work On

As discussed prior Gray has some basic tools that you can work with to develop into a capable center. However, the problem with Gray is his conditioning. Just take a look at these three pictures:

Aaron Gray in 2007

vs.

Aaron Gray in 2010

vs.

Aaron Gray 2011

Now, I’m not trying to make fun of his weight or anything like that. What I am trying to get at is how Gray is currently working his way back into shape. In 2007 he looks almost like a completely different person. Knowing that he can work his way back to that size should install confidence within Demps and the coaching staff. We can see that in 2010 Gray was most out of shape then, but in 2011 he has slimmed down, just a little, showing that he’s worked on his conditioning some.

In terms of his game, Aaron has been working hard this offseason trying to develop a jumpshot and trying to get fitter. He began working out even while the Hornets were still scouting for the draft.

Statistically Gray had one of his better seasons albeit not outstanding.

Will over on At The Hive does a great job of highlighting just how good of a rebounder Gray really is. Here we can see that not only is he a good rebounder, but he’s been steadily improving (except for his offensive rebounding which took a bit of a dip, but is still pretty good).

As for his other categories, Gray has also improved defensively (playing with a better defensive team), even if he’s taken a bit of a dip offensively (1 points below the league average). I still think though, that Gray can work on these things. He’s young, willing, and skilled, which is a formula for potential.

We all know that potential means nada if you don’t turn it into something, but I think he could be a contributor in this league, despite what many say.

Moving Forward

It remains to be seen whether the Hornets bring back Gray, but if he could be had for the right price perhaps Demps does bring him back. However, the organisation needs to be fully confident he can be a backup center for the entirety of a season. Gray hasn’t played more than 70 games in any of his NBA seasons. Durability and conditioning are big issues (no pun intended).

If the Hornets do resign Gray they might need to try and find another seven-footer, who can be a project. The Hornets lack size so Gray could be the first step towards getting taller.

Season Grade: (Measured in Awesome to the Max’s)

2 and 3/4 out of 5.

Previous Season Reviews

 

Topics: Aaron Gray, Dell Demps, Emeka Okafor, Monty Williams, New Orleans Hornets

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  • Chris Trew

    Indeed, Gray has impressed us in just one game (game 1) series against the Lakers. He still isn’t reliable as a backup center. However, I agree that one day he might be. I think that goes for the Hornets re-sign with Gray, since it is a fair price.

    • http://swarmandsting.com James Grayson

      Yeap spot on Chris. I mean, he’ll have a lot of teams interested in him, but they probably don’t realise the amount of time and work that still needs to go into his development.

      Should be interesting to see how things pan out.

      • lucas

        I don’t think it’s necessary to commit follies to stay with Aaron Gray. I agree that it could be an interesting backup (not yet), but not worth much more than it receives. If any other team wants to pay much more to hire Gray, bye bye. Good luck to him.

  • dathrone

    In all fairness Gray’s was hurt in game 1, yet still managed to out perform Emeka. All things considered I rather him starting next year as our center even @ double his last year salary than Okafor.

    • lucas

      Gray as a starter? Wow … Our situation is worse than I imagined.

      • dathrone

        My comment is anti-Emeka not pro-Aaron. As far as production it’s not 10 mil apart. The only clear advantage Okafor has over Gray is conditioning. And you can make a case that Gray’s height makes it even.

        This comes down to money. Gray in Emeka out will free up around 10 million dollars. If I was assigning number grades Okafor is a 6.5 and Gray’s is a 5. Sure Oka is better but is that 1.5 worth 10 mil? NO WAY.

        • lucas

          The problem is: how can we trade Okafor?

          • dathrone

            My answer ASAP. Lol

            We would have to package him with most likely Ariza. A deal with a team like Philly who has a guy they want out just as bad as we need Okafor out.

          • http://swarmandsting.com James Grayson

            Dathrone, the problem with that is that we would have no center to speak of. If we got rid of Emeka I don’t believe we could realistically get Nene, Chandler or Dalembert (who is 35 and someone I don’t want).

            While I understand why some people want to get rid of Okafor (undersized center) we still must remember that he’s not as bad as some believe.

            The likelihood that we trade him is very small. Yes in large part because of his massive contract. But also because Dell Demps believes he’s part of our core group of players.

            I’d love to ship him out if we brought in Nene, but I think Nene is more likely to resign in Denver than sign in New Orleans.

  • coach44

    All backups have certain deficiencies. That’s why they are backups. Gray’s was his propensity to commit fouls at an astounding rate. I think part of that was due to his lack of conditioning. Extra weight means slow feet. But when he was able to stay out of foul trouble, he generally performed well, sometimes very well. I would certainly try to keep him for a reasonable increase in salary.

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  • dathrone

    @James

    Once again this becomes about production vs. cost. Because we are a small market under PvsC is even more an issue. The new CBA should help all small market teams, but only if we are investing our money intelligently.

    Can we count on him for low post scoring? Can he be the anchor of the defense? So why would anybody view him as a core piece of this team. On top of the fact that he’s due 12 million next year. If Demps see Emeka as a core player we’re done might as well give the name back to Charlotte. Only thing Oka is more than above average at is post defense. So if like I said I rather have a center not as good making a tenth of his salary. To me the most crippling thing moving forward in this league the next few years until salaries come down will be bad contracts. IMO looking @PvsC Emeka contract is top 10 bad. I would rather end up with a bad center with a great contract than an below average center with a terrible contract.

    • http://swarmandsting.com James Grayson

      I agree that paying Okafor 12 million dollars is a bit out of touch, but as I’ve said before most centers are overpaid anyway.

      I think you’re underrated Okafor a little bit, granted he’s not a great scorer and doesn’t possess prototypical size, but we need to remember he does have the ability to one day reach 15 points and average much more rebounds.

      If we move Okafor we won’t likely get a better option. If we go the cheap route it would be a massive backstep because overall it wouldn’t be an upgrade.

      I know we have to try and be cheap, but having Okafor isn’t all that bad. Until he got injured he was probably the best player on our team. Because of that I think we really need to appreciate the potential he can reach.

      I think getting rid of Okafor for say Andre Iguodala is a bad idea. Iggy is actually the equivalent of Okafor, just at shooting guard/small-forward. A generally overpaid, but not terrible player. Trading Emeka isn’t ideal, because you’ll never get equal value back for him.

      • lucas

        The problem is that Okafor has left a very bad impression in the playoffs. The fans just making sure that Okafor cannot be our C if we want a championship.

        • dathrone

          @Lucas

          It’s more than just the playoffs. He has severely underwhemled his entire time(minus a few bright patches#veryfew#) as a Hornet. He’s pretty good going up against undersize guys like himself. Other than that he’s struggled.

          What is it about what he brings to this team that is worth 12mil or more specifically what part of his game makes this team better that we can’t find a center that can do it for a tenth of his salary.

          I would rather Iggy because his presense would make a difference. Yes he’s overpaid, but he gives us the premiere perimeter defender we would lose if we traded Ariza. But most importantly he would give us another consistent scorer(who can create his own shot) to take pressure off of CP3 and West(or replace West scoring if we can’t re-sign him). Decent post defending big man are a dime a dozen. Hell even Gray & Mbenga*don’t know why we didn’t play DJ more* showed they could be above average post defenders for rock bottom prices. So why give a guy 12mil for something we can get a guy at 750g’s to do? On the other hand great perimeter defense is a more vauble skill. We get that with Iggy and scoring something Emeka has yet to prove he can do with any consistency.

          I guess my whole point to may “Get rid of Okafor” campaign. Is there are about 2 dozen guys in the league that can give us what Emeka does for significantly less money. And there’s about 2 dozen guys that may not be a great post defender are as durable, but bring some post scoring and once again they are significantly cheaper.