Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Griz Sign Guard Jerryd Bayless

Posted By on Wed, Jul 11, 2012 at 8:30 AM

New Grizzlies signee Jerryd Bayless
  • New Grizzlies signee Jerryd Bayless
NBA free agency officially opened at midnight and the Grizzlies struck quickly, agreeing to a contract with former Toronto Raptors guard Jerry Bayless, as reported by ESPN.com's Marc Stein.

The Grizzlies have reportedly signed Bayless to a two-year deal, with the second season a player option. Based on the mini-mid-level exception the Grizzlies had to use, the starting salary would be $3.1 million.

I had identified Bayless in my last post as the best available free agent that fit the Grizzlies needs and price range, so I think this was a good get for the Grizzlies.

As much as everyone focuses on outside shooting, adding more ballhandlers — or, at least, proven ballhandlers — to the backcourt, not only at the point but at the two-guard as well, was perhaps an even greater need. And as a strong, 6'3” combo guard with an improving three-point shot, Bayless has a chance to check all of those boxes.

A highly ranked high-school prospect — I remember being impressed by him at the final Nike Hoop Summit game in Memphis — Bayless came into the NBA after only one year in college and wasn't quite ready, struggling in his first two seasons in Portland. In his past two seasons, primarily in Toronto after a brief stop in New Orleans, Bayless has settled into a solid rotation-level player, averaging around 11 points per game in 22 minutes of action, with a PER at or above the league average.

A scoring point guard, Bayless has had turnover problems, but reduced his turnover rate last season, and will certainly be a substantial upgrade over last season's back-up point guard cadre. He's a strong slasher who can get to the rim and is a good free-throw shooter (career 82%), although not a great finisher. And though he's streaky, Bayless has shown signs of emerging as a three-point shooter. Bayless shot poorly from three as a spot-minute player early in his career, but after joining Toronto he shot 35% in the ’10-’11 season and then 42% last season, taking 3.4 attempts per game. I think we need to be careful about putting too much stock into shooting percentages during last year's lockout-shortened season, but Bayless' upward trajectory relative to his youth (he's still only 23) is persuasive, as is his strong free-throw shooting.

There tends to be a correlation, at least among guards, between free-throw shooting and three-point shooting — form is form, to an extent. Among the guards who shot better than 80% from the line last season, only two — Andre Miller and Bayless' Toronto teammate DeMar DeRozan — aren't three-point threats. The vast majority shot better than 34% from three and among the few others that didn't, most were high-volume scorers (Kobe Bryant, Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Jamal Crawford).

If Bayless is a good need signing for the Grizzlies, he's also a good signing in terms of asset collection. Despite missing out on higher-dollar targets such as Ray Allen and Jason Terry, the Grizzlies have now secured Bayless, Darrell Arthur, and Marreese Speights on multi-year contracts that average roughly $11-$12 million per season. This is good value that adds tremendous depth and flexibility to the roster. The Grizzlies will be in better shape going into this season to withstand injuries and to also potentially pursue trades to fill needs — especially if rookie Tony Wroten or, more likely, second-year guard Josh Selby, shows signs of being able to contribute.

Signing Bayless brings the Grizzlies roster to 13, the minimum a team has to carry, and brings them a few million over the luxury tax line. They could well be done, though the expectation heading into the offseason was that the team would likely carry 14 players.

Chris Wallace has mentioned on multiple occasions wanting to sign both a point guard and a shooter. Since Bayless theoretically fills both of those holes and the team's backcourt is already overpopulated, I wouldn't be surprised if Bayless is the last perimeter addition, though a cheap shooter — Jodie Meeks? Bill Walker? — wouldn't be out of the question. More likely, it seems, would be adding depth at center, with the return of incumbent reserve Hamed Haddadi the most likely but far from only option.

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