With news that the Raptors are set to sign Tyler Hansbrough to a two-year deal using part of their Mid-Level Exception, my first thought was the cheap shot Hansbrough delivered to Jonas Valanciunas in February and Psycho T’s general reputation as a guy who can hand out said cheap shots but backs away when personally confronted.
When you get past the fake-tough-guy stuff and actually examine the numbers, however, the addition of Hansbrough could be more encouraging than at first glance…
Hansbrough excels in two key areas of the game, offensive rebounding and defence, and in case you needed a reminder, the Raptors finished 20th in offensive rebound rate last season and 22nd in defensive efficiency.
Hansbrough’s career-high offensive rebounding rate of 13.4 in 2012-13 was excellent, ranking 13th in the NBA, ahead of players like Kenneth Faried and Nikola Pekovic. And even if you assume that 13.4 was an outlier, his career offensive rebounding rate of 11.1 would have ranked in the top-40 this past season, just behind Amir Johnson and level with Serge Ibaka.
While he’s clearly an offensive liability as an option himself, Hansbrough will keep plenty of possessions alive for the Raptors, and if he can get to a point where he understands that the majority of his offence should be coming off of put-backs and around the rim, he can be even more valuable on that end of the floor. For what it’s worth, Hansbrough managed to keep his attempts at the rim steady at 2.4 per game despite a decrease in minutes in 2012-13, while his attempts per game from three-to-nine feet, 10-15 feet and especially from 16-23 feet all went down (which is good, because his percentages from those areas were well below average).
On the defensive end, Hansbrough posted some elite individual numbers in 2012-13, albeit in limited action (16.9 minutes per game). His overall defensive rating of 0.72 points allowed per possession ranked 14th in the NBA according to Synergy Sports, with his 0.58 points allowed per possession on post-up opportunities ranking eighth in the Association.
Throw in a conscious effort to get to the free throw line, an Alternate Player Efficiency Rating (HoopData’s adjusted version of PER) of 16.26 last season and the fact that he’s missed just 13 games total over the last three years, and you can begin to look past the cheap shots and shenanigans.
If Hansbrough can continue to produce on the offensive glass, can continue to keep his shot attempts down from the areas of the floor where he’s clearly weak and can continue to provide excellent defence in the post, then he should fit in well in a rotation that figures to boast efficient offensive big men in Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas, a floor stretching 6-10 forward in Steve Novak and a young developing forward in Quincy Acy who will crash the glass and provide stingy defence himself.
Where my question lies now is in relation to Aaron Gray, as The White Panther and the $2,690,875 player option he picked up for the 2013-14 season could have theoretically combined with Acy to provide the same rebounding and defence that Hansbrough has seemingly been brought in to provide.
I’ve slowly started to come around to the Hansbrough acquisition after a closer examination of the numbers, but I don’t see the need for Psycho T, Acy and Gray, and I would assume that no one’s giving up on Acy yet, so does Gray become the odd man out, or does Quincy just continue to ride the pine for now?
With all due respect to Gray, who can usually be counted on to fill his role, most Raptors fans are hoping it’s the former rather than the latter.
UPDATE: Holly MacKenzie reported on twitter that the deal is for $3 million per year over two years, with the second year being a team option. If that’s the case, then it’s hard not to like this deal, as the Raptors would acquire a bench big man who addresses some needs in the short-term without taking on the risk of any unnecessary financial commitment in the long term.
It’s actually quite comical how quickly most Raptors fans (myself included) went from being disappointed by this signing, to impressed by Hansbrough’s advanced metrics, to completely content with the acquisition and reported contract. Having said that, I still think paying Aaron Gray nearly $2.7 million this season is now redundant.