Despite indications to the contrary, Austin Daye is definitely a player in the NBA. He also is allegedly a power forward. I sort of believe the first, and I definitely don't believe the second. Daye stands as a man without a position and without a path to much playing time. He is, sad to say about a recent top-15 pick, largely irrelevant to the Pistons present or its future. But can he defy the odds and finally become a productive NBA player?
Austin Daye: 2011-12 Year in Review
4.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks, 1.0 turnovers, 32.2% shooting, 21.0% 3-point shooting
Simply put, Austin Daye could not have had a worse season last year. He entered the year solidly in the rotation and bungled every opportunity the team gave him. He had a team-worst offensive rating of 80 and was outplayed offensively by the likes of Damien Wilkins, Will Bynum and Walker D. Russell. Not good for a player that was drafted for his offensive potential. He placed blame on a bad experience playing overseas in Russia when he couldn't stay on an effective diet and ended up losing 10 pounds the spritely Daye couldn't afford to lose. I'm not buying it but it isn't a stretch to assume that last year's putrid output is unlikely to be repeated.
Surprisingly, he had the fourth-best defensive rating on the team last season, but I attribute a large part of that to 1. Playing during garbage time for the latter half of the season and 2. Using his freakish length to swat down the shots of unsuspecting shooters.
In the instances he was actually able to get position under the basket he showed an ability to snag rebounds but he didn't box out well or often and was easily pushed out of the way by people that could do more than 10 push-ups. So why make him a power forward? We'll get to that a little later but he also couldn't do the things that a wing player should be able to do.
He is wiry and agile enough to get past defenders on occasion but his handle is shaky and his on-court awareness is atrocious. Any time he had the ball for longer than a few seconds he was prone to get his pocket picked.
2012-13 Projected Production
An honest projection would have to conclude that Daye will not get much playing time and might get on the floor. He won't be in the rotation to start the season and barring injury there isn't a path for him to earn any more minutes. And it seems the team is destined to trade him and some other scraps in order to make room for Ben Wallace, so if he does actually put up any numbers it would probably be for another team.
But even in limited minutes he will be better than last season. He shot 32 percent last season but in the two years prior he shot 41 percent and 46 percent. He shot an almost unbelievable 21 percent from three but a healthy 40 percent the year before. I suspect he'll shoot closer to his 10-11 production than his 11-12 production.
Look, I liked Daye when the Pistons drafted him. I didn't like him as much as, say, Ty Lawson. But he has a great shooting stroke. If he could reliably hit 40+ percent from three he would have a nice, long, productive NBA career. But he can't guard, he has a low basketball IQ and his lack of confidence is apparent every second he is on the floor.
And about that "power forward" thing. Yeah, I don't see that working out too well. At all.
Last year Daye played 14 percent of Detroit's power forward minutes with a net point differential of -120. That compares to just a -19 mark at the eight percent he played at small forward, according to 82games.com. And his 9 percent rebound rate is a poor mark for a small forward much less a big man. There were only three big men in all of basketball who had a sub-10 rebound rate while playing as much as Daye: Andrea Bargnani, Anthony Tolliver and Matt Bonner.
Considering Daye not in the long-term plans (contract up after this year) and has no easy way to actually see the floor it is hard to make a projection and if I could make one outside of listing stats it would be that two months into the season he won't be a member of the Detroit Pistons. But I'll give the standard projection a shot anyway.
14 minutes, 5.5 points, 5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, .4 steals, .5 blocks, 1.5 turnover, 42% shooting, 38% 3-point shooting
So the best-case scenario for Daye is that he can play a Bonner-esque role for the Pistons -- defensive liability who can player power forward in small-ball lineups and hit from long-range and spread the floor. That is the best-case scenario for the 15th-pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Unfortunately, that is also the role that would best describe Charlie Villanueva's role on the team. So you have two rotation outcasts coming off career-worst seasons. As they say in Alien vs. Predator, whoever wins, we lose.