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.

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