Will Bynum sets up teammates more than anyone on the Pistons

I want to take a minute to address what has become a huge annoyance: despite the presence of high-priced players who have underperformed (Jason Maxiell, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Rip Hamilton) and a young player who seems to have plateaued when he’s essentially auditioning for his first big payday as a pro (Rodney Stuckey), a player who is taking a ridiculous amount of criticism, both from commenters (examples here and here) and from some who cover the team, is Will Bynum. A player who has been very productive since rejoining the rotation and who, more importantly, is one of only a handful of Pistons who is not astronomically overpaid.

The general sentiment, if I may summarize the rants posted in the comments and jokes made on Twitter, is that Bynum goes into the game essentially in get-mine mode. When his shot is falling, that’s great. When it’s not, people feel he plays selfish and out of control.

Those would be fair criticisms if they were accurate.

Will Bynum sets up teammates

Tracy McGrady has generally been panned praised by fans because his passing has added a dimension to the starting lineup the Pistons were lacking with Stuckey running the point. Namely, McGrady passes more and better than Stuckey.

I have no issues with those facts. McGrady has certainly been an unselfish player. Bynum, however, is kind of framed as the anti-McGrady. The point guard in name only who comes into the game looking to do one thing: score the ball. It’s just a flat-out wrong perception.

First, the most telling stat is assist percentage — “an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on on the floor.” Bynum leads the team at just over 28 percent of his possessions. McGrady, surprisingly, is only producing an assist on about 24 percent of his possessions.

That’s not to say Bynum is better at running a conventional offense than McGrady. McGrady very clearly is superior in the halfcourt, and often, his passes are about making the smart basketball play that keeps the offense moving rather than just making a pass that leads to a basket. But to say that Bynum is averse to passing is just not correct. He’s a different type of player, a freelancer who uses his quickness to create havoc and keep the defense off balance. His main goal is to score, for sure, but if he doesn’t have a shot, he passes to teammates in position to score more often than anyone on the team. Which brings me too …

Myth: Bynum is not an efficient scorer

Bynum shoots nearly 45 percent this season. That’s a better percentage than McGrady, Hamilton, Gordon, Stuckey and Villanueva. He averages fewer shot attempts per 36 minutes than Hamilton, Gordon, Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Villanueva, Daye and, hilariously, DaJuan Summers. So Bynum shoots a better percentage on fewer shot attempts than five key players, and people jump all over him for shooting even though he does it pretty efficiently?

And, just to add some recent data, in eight games in February so far, just as the criticism of him has been ratcheting up, his shooting percentage for the month is 52 percent. I’m sorry, but any guard who is shooting 52 percent should have the green light to shoot as often as he feels like he has good shots. Bynum is going to miss at the rim sometimes for a couple of reasons: a large percentage of his shots come at the rim and he’s really short. But when you compare his percentage to say, Stuckey, a much bigger player who has a similar game when it comes to attacking the basket, Bynum just flat out converts those attempts more often than Stuckey does.

The contract

Bynum is one of the four players on the Pistons (Greg Monroe, Ben Wallace and McGrady are the other three) whose production is in line with his pay. Bynum makes less than most backup point guards in the league. He produces about 14 points, 6 assists and 1.5 steals every 36 minutes while shooting 45 percent and 82 percent from the free throw line.

He’s not without flaws — he turns it over more than you’d like a point guard to and his playing with reckless abandon, while often changing the pace of the game and putting pressure on the opposing defense, can sometimes become out of control.

The takeaway

Even with limitations, what Bynum gives the team on a nightly basis — speed, aggression, intensity, playmaking, bench scoring and lately, ball-hawking defense (he has seven steals in the last two games) — for a cheap (by NBA standards) cost, there’s zero reason to really complain about his flaws, especially while bending over backwards to make excuses for a much higher paid player like Gordon who very often plays without aggression or intensity and, unlike Bynum, rarely does anything to set up teammates or create shots for them.

Bynum is far from the problem on the Pistons. It’s fair to criticize him when he makes a bad play, but this is the simple truth: if every Piston played with the heart and intensity that Bynum plays with, they’d be a playoff team.

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