It’s clear that Stan Van Gundy knew what he wanted in his backup center, and Aaron Gray is the kind of signing that you know exactly what you’re going to get.
He is a big-bodied big man who will set screens on offense and protect the rim on defense. It won’t be anything flashy, but it will get the job done, and it’ll help the team accomplish its goals.
Offensively, Gray isn’t what people would call “gifted”, but what he does well is set screens.
Outside of setting those screens, he won’t be leaving the paint all that often, but with the team that Van Gundy has started putting together, that’s all Gray should be doing.
Agility isn’t a commonly thought of trait when hearing the name Aaron Gray, but in those screens that Gray will most likely be setting, his agility could cause opponents some headaches, especially with the shooting that Detroit will have on the perimeter this year.
It’s very easy to envision D.J. Augustin and Jodie Meeks running pick and rolls with Gray and having success due to their three point shooting and his quickness.
While Gray should show some offensive success in the pick and roll, the rest of his offensive game won’t be qualifying as “eye candy” any time soon.
He has decent touch around the rim, and every so often, he’ll use a little push-shot, but he won’t be posting up, and he doesn’t have any post moves that are effective.
Defensively, Gray will be average. He moves well in the lane, he takes up a lot of space, and he is decent at contesting opponent shots.
He will miss a few rotations, and he won’t gobble up all of the rebounds, but all backups have holes in their games.
One of the defensive areas where Gray should be able to be effective is the pick and roll.
That earlier mentioned agility will play a big part in how well Gray will be able to thwart the pick and roll attack. In these pick and roll situations, Gray will most likely be sagging back into the paint to try to contain the point guard and dissuade him from attacking, and, then, his agility will allow him to quickly recover to defend the opposing center.
The most likely reason that Gray won over Stan’s attention is that the guy just runs.
He sprints up and down the court trying to get into the best position he can. This trait is incredible, not only because it’s encouraging to teammates, but it always forces the other team to quickly get back on defense. Everybody hates facing that guy.
Gray won’t be the most exciting player on the court. It will be easy to wish that he could do a little more at times, but he’ll work hard on both ends, and he’ll be a nuisance to the other team by sprinting everywhere.
From a backup center role, there’s not much more that a team could wish for.