While the move had been rumoured for a long time, on Friday the Toronto Raptors made it official, signing free-agent swingman Mickael Pietrus and waiving Dominic McGuire to help address their small forward woes.
How bad were things getting at that spot?
For starters, according to 82games.com, the Raptors this season pre-Pietrus were a net -6.0 in PER at that spot, the worst mark of any of the five positions. The position had an effective field goal percentage 39 per cent while allowing 52 per cent by opponents, and was essentially a big negative across the board on other stats.
The bulk of this malaise was due to the play of Linas Kleiza and Dominic McGuire. Together they sported a PER of under 10 at the SF position, and were so effective on the court through the first 13 games that they managed to offer up a combined negative production mark of -18.1.
So it's pretty clear how bad things were.
But is Pietrus an answer?
That was my first question after the signing was announced, wondering if indeed he would represent a big upgrade over Kleiza and in particular, the player who was waived in his stead, McGuire.
And I think from the stats above, there's no need to dig much further. Part of the issue obviously is that McGuire, a player who was supposed to be a 12th-man energy type, was miscast into a go-to offensive guy at times, a role he's simply not equipped to fulfill.
However it's not as if it was only on O that he struggled. He sported a defensive win score of 0.2, well below his 0.9 mark in previous NBA stops. To put things in perspective, Andrea Bargnani's score over that same period was 0.3, meaning he was making a slightly more valuable contribution on D.
Essentially then, Pietrus nearly has to be an upgrade over McGuire by default doesn't he?
Let's see what Jeff from Celticsblog had to say about Pietrus and his play for Boston last season:
Personality wise, this is all you really need to know.
sportsnetNewEngland/search/v/ 54489675/pietrus-dances- shoots-before-game.htm
(If you don't LOL or at least crack a smile looking at that then you have no pulse. The dancing part, not the concussion part.)
Injuries hampered him all year and have been the downside to him for the last several years. I believe it is his knees that are the biggest ongoing concern but there were other things (like his concussion last year) that pop up.
When he's on the court, he's still a plus defender and energy guy. He can also hit an open 3 pointer once in a while, just don't expect him to do too much else with the ball. There was a time when he earned the nickname Air France with some high flying dunks, but for the most part that's behind him.
Good guy, good energy guy, good defender. Just not great at anything and perhaps a little past his prime and always an injury risk.
A big thanks to Jeff for that and the last sentence is pretty much how I would have summed things up regarding Pietrus.
He's never been a huge PER guy (career average is a sub-average 11.8) but he should provide help in two areas where Toronto desperately needs a lift: defence and three-point shooting.
For a player who's on the downside of his career he still posted an extremely solid 1.4 defensive win score last year with Boston, and is a career 36 per cent three-point shooter. He's been particularly deadly though from the corner spot in terms of shooting the 3, hitting 44 per cent last season. In the wake of Andrea Bargnani's shooting woes, having a player in the starting group that can consistently spread the floor is huge, and at face value, that's what it looks like he'll be able to do.
So when you combine the defensive boost and the long-rang shooting, I think it's pretty safe to say that Toronto is coming out ahead in terms of swapping McGuire for Pietrus, not just on the court, but potentially off in terms of culture and fit.
That being said, this isn't shedding McGuire and adding Andre Iguodala. It's a stop-gap solution that should provide a lift to the club's anemic small forward production, but obviously long-term, questions remain.
Questions that unfortunately I don't think we'll have answers to, until Landry Fields' return.