After being lost in the shuffle under coach John Kuester in 2010-11, Jason Maxiell was re-discovered as a useful role player under Lawrence Frank. The discovery shouldn't have been a surprise, as Maxiell has a history of being his most productive when given a regular, consistent role. In 2012-13, Jason should be able to maintain last season's production for the Pistons, although he may finish the season playing that role elsewhere.
Jason Maxiell: 2011-12 Year in Review
6.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, .6 assists, .5 steals, .8 blocks, 1.1 turnovers, 47.8% shooting
Despite starting for the final 42 games of the lockout-shortened season, Maxiell only averaged 22.6 minutes per game, less so than his reserve Jonas Jerebko. Jason's involvement peaked in February and March, contributing roughly 7 points, 6 rebounds and a block in 25 minutes. Those are respectful numbers, and fans can expect to see more of that in 2012-13 if he's given the same burn by Detroit's coaching staff.
There's not too much to say about Jason's 2011-12 campaign. In previewing Maxiell for the season ahead, looking back doesn't provide much insight. What fans can expect most out of Jason in 2012-13 is positioning for the years ahead without him. With that, I'll skip the "areas to improve" and jump right into the meat...
2012-13 Projected Production
As hinted at above, if Jason earns 22-25 minutes per game on a regular basis, fans can expect the usual 7 and 5 they've come to expect from him. In fact, if the franchise is looking to get the most out of Jason's value in the coming season, they should pencil him to start at power forward and receive 25+ minutes per game through to the All Star break. At that moment, Maxiell's trade value will peak and the opportunity of parting ways could be the best decision for both parties.
On February 18th, Jason Maxiell will turn 30 years old. His game is predicated upon energy and athleticism, two characteristics which will fade quickly. Unlike the veteran bigs who seem to hang on with an NBA role into their late 30s, the same isn't likely to happen for Jason. At 6'7", he doesn't have the height that will keep him relevant into his twilight years. A cliff is arriving very soon for Maxiell, and his best shot at a decent two year deal might depend on how Detroit treats him this winter.
Imagine it this way-- if Maxiell repeats his February performance last year, putting up 6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in a limited burn, playoff teams in need of frontcourt depth should see him as an option. Given that he comes with a $5 million expiring contract, he becomes all that more attractive. Teams can add him as a productive backup big for the playoffs and they receive an expiring salary as well.
Is there much of a market for those two values at the moment? Not really. That might change by February, as injuries happen or flaws are exposed and teams try to adjust. One interesting partner would be Oklahoma City, whose frontcourt is anchored by an oft-injured Kendrick Perkins, who doesn't seem to trust their young bigs with extended minutes, and who will look to cut salary to resign James Harden. Maxiell for Lazar Hayward and Cole Aldrich, both of which have two-year salaries remaining, should help all three of those points of focus. It's anyone's guess at this point.
If Maxiell winds up with a trade to a playoff team by the deadline, it'd be best for his career. Some face time on national television will put him in front of GMs looking to supplement their rosters over the next few years. A good showing might earn him a multi-year deal for a fraction of the MLE. A trade would also be an opportunity for the rest of the Pistons' frontcourt, as a deadline deal would clear up minutes for a rising Andre Drummond or Slava Kravtsov, should Monroe be willing to slide to the 4.
All of this said, 24 minutes of Jason Maxiell in a Pistons uniform should bring this to the team prior to the deadline:
24 minutes, 6.5 points, 5 rebounds, .5 assists, .5 steals, .8 blocks, 1 turnover, 49% shooting
In all likelihood, there's a better chance Maxiell ends this season in Detroit, finishing out a quiet year without much burn off of the bench. The power forward minutes will be split largely by Jonas Jerebko and Greg Monroe, while two rookie centers will back up Monroe's starting position at the 5. Maxiell might be lost in the shuffle once again, and should that happen, his production won't be at its best.
Given Joe Dumars' recent reticence to trade away expiring players, Maxiell's expiring value may be used in free agency in concert with the relief from Will Bynum and Corey Maggette. Sadly, Dumars also has a history of extending players he discovered when they're beyond their primes... Finger's cross'd, Pistons fans.