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.
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:
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.
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.