Vanderbilt vs. South Dakota State | NIT Tournament 2nd round | Memorial Gymnasium March 20, 2015

This piece will be comparing Wade Baldwin’s to many successful Point Guards of the past.

In honor of Wade Baldwin measuring both taller than expected (6’4″) and with a longer wingspan (6’11.25″), we’ll examine his profile in further depth.  Skipping over the things we already know.  1)  That Wade Baldwin can really get to the rim AND that Wade Baldwin has numbers that would lead us to believe he has a good chance to shoot at the NBA level, possibly even off the dribble.  And as we’ve all seen in the last week or two, with Steph Curry, with Damian Lillard, even at times with Kyle Lowry, shooting off the dribble can be a swing skill in the NBA.

Not just because it makes the player really dangerous as an individual scorer.  But also because it presents the defense with an impossible choice when it comes to P-N-R.  Either they follow the player over the screen, preventing a three-point attempt while also creating lanes by which the defense can be attacked.  Or the defender goes under the screen and surrenders the three.   (I’ve oversimplified things here, but similar problems are presented no matter how the defense plays the screen, if they trap, if they switch, etc . . . In any situation in which the offensive player can do these three things: 1)  Shoot off the dribble, 2) Penetrate off the dribble, 3) Pass the ball, the defense is fucked.

So the question is why, if Wade Baldwin, has the real hope of being able to do these three things is he not considered a top 10 lock?  Or more to the point, what does Wade Baldwin do well?  And what does Wade Baldwin do not as well?

And I will try to answer this not by making a scouting report (Derek Bodner of DraftExpress has done an excellent job here) hitting all the main points.  Struggled to finish at the rim, check.  Not a finished product, check.  Could really use work on his handle, check.  (It’s come a long way since his Freshman season.  What I would add is that Baldwin struggles when he gets sped up, which is why his dribble is sometimes loose and perhaps also why he struggles at the rim.  Which is to say, body control is an issue now.  It might continue to be an issue into the future.  You’ll notice, it’s something that Russell Westbrook sometimes struggles with as well, though Baldwin’s Top Gear is nowhere close to that of Westbrook.)

What I will do is place Baldwin’s per 40 numbers against the Point Guards of the past.  Not quite an Apples-to-Apples comparison, since we’ve had any number of rules changes in the last 30 years, but it’s close enough to get a feel for how good these players were in their respective Freshman and Sophomore years and to see where they succeeded and where they failed.  More importantly, it will also allow us to see that as far away as Wade Baldwin perhaps is, he’s also way ahead of schedule.

Point Guards take a lot of time to cook.  Even great Point Guards.  Stockton and Nash both took four years in college and then three or four years in the NBA.  Chauncey Billups was outstanding by his second year in college, then took until age 26 in the NBA to consolidate his game.  (If Billups didn’t improve in the way he did, it’s somewhat likely he was on his last contract.)  Payton was scoring 60+ in college games and even he took two or three years after a four-year college career.

Which is to say this much, drafting Baldwin definitely carries risk.  He’s not a finished product.  And he might be on his 2nd contract before he becomes excellent (if he indeed does.)  Next year will be Wade Baldwin’s Age 20 season. Thanks to, here’s a list of most of the Point Guards who played a qualifying Age 19 or 20 season:

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Kobe Bryant doesn’t quite make the per 36 Assist cut off I’ve set to select for Primary Perimeter Initiators, so let’s keep that in mind.  Still, we have to admit that it’s a rather select list of players who could both dribble and pass to some degree and were deemed to be good enough at basketball to have an Age 20 qualifying season.  (Remember that when looking at the list below, a player like Chauncey Billups was nearly half a year older than Wade Baldwin during his sophomore season.)  There’s somewhere around 30 guys in the whole database, and very few of them with dimensions close to as big or bigger than Wade Baldwin (again, 6’4″ with a 6’11.25″ Wingspan), passing ability AND any kind of demonstration of shooting ability from distance.

So already, we’re realizing just which kind of group Wade Baldwin might one day belong.  But let’s look further into it.  (Please forgive me for leaving out a couple of players that clearly should feature here:  Baron Davis, Kevin Johnson (no good stats I could find), Magic Johnson (he was so good in college that there’s little enlightenment to be found in comparing Magic to anyone, except perhaps guys like Kidd, Wade and Anfernee Hardaway.)

Shit Wade Baldwin Does Good

Three Point Percentage

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This is clearly not a list of every college PG to put up a Freshman or Sophomore season in college basketball.  Nor even all those who would it to the NBA.  But it’s a pretty decent sized list featuring many of the best PG and Combo Guards of the last 30 years or so.  So obviously the “Rank” Column is just ranking the players in this group to try to better contextualize where the player might fall.  Please, do not read too much into the number, more than to know that the better a player ranks, the more likely the skill is a real strength.  (Another issue is that the function I created to rank the players doesn’t distinguish between players who are tied.)

Though I’ve also made smaller groupings, selecting out players that are more similar to Baldwin in each category to help us:

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1) The first thing we can tell is that Three-Point Shooting has been a strength for Wade Baldwin.  Even NBA greats at the position didn’t shoot as well as Baldwin his first two years.  When you’re Freshman season is bounded on one side by Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry and Mark Price and your sophomore season is bounded on the other by Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups, as a jump shooter that’s where you want to be.

2) I’d like for us to continue to note Chauncey Billups.  He’ll continue to come up as a player who was similar to Baldwin in important statistical categories in both his Freshman and Sophomore year.  He also, like Baldwin, was a huge Point Guard without the Top End Speed of a player like Jason Kidd or Russell Westbrook, but with the legitimate ability to guard multiple positions.  The key for Billups was when he finally consolidated his jumper off the dribble from distance.  It took him a long time, but after that, when defenders couldn’t just sit on drives, he became a player for whom the defense basically had no answers.

When you’re a player like Billups or Kyle Lowry or Marcus Smart (this is going to be one of the major questions he needs to answer), getting the defense to chase you around screens is one of the keys to becoming a huge value offensive player.  And it’s one of the reasons why we see Billups getting so much better from Age 23 to Age 26, while being relatively stagnant in value before that.  The ability to shoot from distance ultimately led not just to higher efficiency three-point numbers (from 17.1% to 39.2% between those years) , but better passing numbers (from 6.5 Assists per 100 possessions at Age 23 to over 13 Assists per 100 at Age 29) since he was now playing with advantage on offense, and even more Free Throw Attempts (from 7 Free Throw Attempts per 100 to 9 or 10 FTA per 100 year in and year out), since he was now driving into help defense, which is much more likely to commit a foul.

When you add these improvements to the other ways in which many players get better from Age 23 to Age 30 (rebounding, knowledge of the game, defensive understanding), you get an outstanding player.  Though 4 teams gave up on Billups before that happened, and the Pistons only signed him for a 6-year mid-level deal, meaning he wasn’t all that attractive a free agent.

3)  But back to how good Wade Baldwin is at jump shooting, when we’re talking about players who put up these kinds of percentages in both their Freshman and Sophomore years, we are basically talking about Damian Lillard, Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Ben Gordon and perhaps James Harden (when you allow for the fact that he likely shot a lot more off-the-dribble threes than Baldwin.)  Here are Some Career Shooting Numbers for those five players plus Chauncey Billups:

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Let’s not read everything into this list.  There are other players who shot this well their first two years in college that didn’t make a scratch in the league.  But we will see, it is rare for a player to have Baldwin’s array of skills AND to display shooting both from the Three Point Line and the Free Throw Line.  When that happens, you generally have an NBA lifer, at the least.  And all of these guys were Top 7 picks.  For good reason.  Then why is Baldwin being thought of as a mid-first rounder or even as a 2nd rounder?

I’d suggest that it’s highly possible that we selectively give prospects credit for their age and the skills they have.  That if Baldwin were either highly regarded coming into college, or were Baldwin just to have gone through an Age-19 Freshman season rather than an Age-19 sophomore season, we would have much more positive thoughts about him as a player.

The fact of the matter is that there’s no way Lillard would have been drafted after his sophomore season, despite it showing all the same skills he displayed as a senior, and there was little likelihood of Curry being drafted highly.  (He had yet to really display his dribbling ability or his passing ability, as much of his game was off-the-catch his first two years at Davidson.  And his defensive ability and potential was lightly regarded by everyone, not least of all me, because he didn’t look the part).

There’re not many chances to get in on a potential star player a year early.  We’re going to see Baldwin presents that type of package.  That there are a lot of reasons Baldwin is a very solid bet after Simmons and perhaps Ingram, to be this draft’s 2nd or 3rd biggest impact player 10 years from now.

Free Throw Shooting

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Before sizing down to a smaller list, I’d just like to point out that players do indeed get a lot better from their Freshman year and that their growth as individuals is unpredictable.  And why I’m perhaps being too harsh on Jamal Murray.  When everyone is projecting Jamal Murray to be a Star Player, they are seeing this much, that his jumper is already money, that he can dribble well enough, that he’s decently tall, and then projecting him to have the all-around growth that Brandon Roy had from his Freshman Season in college to his Sophomore year in the NBA.  There’s a number of reasons this is unlikely.  It’s not to say it’s altogether impossible.  It has happened before.  And someday it will again.  Jamal Murray could legitimately be that player.  Or perhaps Devin Booker from last year.

Not all players growth curves are the same.  Which is why all of this is at best a guess.  No one would have bet on Brandon Roy after his Freshman season.  And everyone would have been wrong.  So take whatever anyone says with a grain of salt, unless perhaps you’ve met the person that could predict how good Brandon Roy would become.  (Not me.)

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1) I’ve included Steph Curry, Chauncey Billups, and Mark Price in the list of close comparables.  Rest assured, Wade Baldwin is not that kind of Free-Throw Shooter, at least not yet.  But comparing favorably to Steve Nash an George Hill is not so bad.

2)  I find the names that surround Baldwin’s two season on this list to be particularly interesting.  CJ McCollum, Ben Gordon, Jarrett Jack, George Hill, Jeff Hornacek.  They all seem like different possibilities for Wade Baldwin, were you to give these players a nearly 7’0″ Wing span.

3)  In particular I find Jarrett Jack, George Hill and Jeff Hornacek to be interesting comparisons.  Imagine if Jarrett Jack had a near 7’0″ Wingspan and a more consistent Three-Point shot, what kind of player are talking about?  We are talking about Jarrett Jack in his two or three best offensive seasons (2009-2010 with Toronto, 2011-2012 with New Orleans and 2012-2013 with Golden State, seasons in which he shot 35-41% from three, which helped raise his TS% and allowed other parts of his game to shine), a player similar to that, but with better defense, due to the added length.

That’s probably a kind of lower level baseline for Wade Baldwin as a player, at least if he sticks at PG.

4)  As for Hill and Hornacek, we will see their names come up again in comparison with Baldwin.  Especially Jeff Horancek.  Even before I did this study, I had started to think about an offensive career like that of Jeff Hornacek as one of the more positive outcomes for Wade Baldwin.  And yes, if Baldwin is anywhere as close to as good as Hornacek on offense with his potential on defense, he should be a superstar, since Hornacek was a Top 10 offensive player at least two times and as many as five or six.

As a side note:  The funniest thing about all the flack that Hornacek got for his Two-Point guard system when it bottomed out in his second season is that everyone somehow forgot that Hornacek was on teams that played these kinds of systems his entire career.  Next to Kevin Johnson in Phoenix.  Next to John Stockton in Utah.  Horancek was a Point Guard who could play Two.  So instituting a system in which multiple players could dribble, pass and shoot would for him be the most natural thing in the world.

I also think it’s generally the right way to go.  When you have multiple offensive players who can threaten the defense in this way (Golden State with their roster of Point Guards and Point Forwards, San Antonio with Kawhi+Manu+Parker, Miami with Lebron and Wade, Chicago with Michael and Scottie, Utah with Stockton and Hornacek, Detroit with Isaiah and Joe Dumars, etc . . .), your team becomes next to impossible to defend.  If anyone gives Hornacek a job and gives him smart players with talent, I think we’ll once again see some excellent teams.

Free Throw Rate

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Free Throw Rate is another statistic by which Wade Baldwin does well.  Though just how well will be easier to see when we shrink the size of the group.

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1) It should be said, I removed all the really small sample seasons (less than 150 FGA) from the group.  It should also be said that this number is somewhat dependent on Three-Point Rate as well.  The more Three-Pointers a player shoots, the more difficult it becomes to have a high Free-Throw Rate, since players are much less likely to be fouled while shooting jump shots, unless of course they are Reggie Miller.

2) Here we see a quite noticeable jump in FTr from Baldwin’s Freshman season to this year.  46.7% to 61.4%.  I’d argue we see that for two reasons.  The first that Wade Baldwin became Vanderbilt’s full-time PG this year after playing mostly off-ball as a Freshman, playing alongside both Shelton Mitchell and Riley LaChance, who was actually quite good his first year before completely bottoming out.

The second is that Wade Baldwin is much better at dribbling now than he was as Freshman.  He still has a long way to go.  Baldwin’s still very loose with his handle at times, especially when he builds up speed and gets out of control, though not just in those situations.  And yet he still gets to the rim and into defenders bodies with relative ease.

3) I’m not going to go on and on about this.  Just to note that when most of this group of all-time greats isn’t as good as Baldwin at this skill, it’s because he’s doing something right as a player.  Even players like George Hill, Jarrett Jack, and Andre Miller, who weren’t exactly elite at getting to the line in the league, did manage to earn value at the Foul Stripe.  And there are players like James Harden who are in the same athletic ballpark as Baldwin that manage to get to the Free-Throw Line and convert at elite rates in the NBA.

Now Baldwin isn’t quite as good an overall prospect as James Harden, at least not going into the draft, but his draft also doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as deep.

Free Throw Attempts Per 40

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1) As the list is related heavily to FTr, I’ve decided just to give you the shorter list of comparables.  (Which is still quite long.)  Dwayne Wade is awesome.  He’s the guy missing at the Top.

2) I’m not wholly prepared to make the argument, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Free Throw Attempts per 40 (regardless of FTr) is the more important number.  Or at least, a number as important.  Not just because it removes the wonkiness of small samples, but also because it gives us an insight into how many times a game a player is pressuring the defense.

3)  I need not say again, Wade Baldwin was really good at this.

4)  Now, if you want to be more impressed, look at the FTA per 40 against the number of Field Goal Attempts.  (Though don’t forget, due to the shortened shot clock, there are likely more possessions per 40 now than there were five or ten or twenty years ago.)  Only Chris Paul and Ron Harper have the same combination of relatively low FGA and incredibly high Free Throw Attempts per 40.

Assists Per 40

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First, most of the guys at the very top of this list, Jason Kidd, Ty Lawson, Andre Miller, Gary Payton, Chris Paul, they were incredible.

By the way, this is where Kahlil Felder would belong were we doing this same exercise with his numbers.  He’s been an incredible college player.  Plus, for a shorter player, he definitely has the right build, very thick.  There are many reasons why he might be the best bet for a possibly elite one-way offensive player out of this draft.  If that happens, no one is going to love watching Felder more than me.

Though not every player who excels at this stat continues to excel into the pros (MCW, Hinrich, Jarrett Jack as some examples).  There’s a difference between getting to one’s spots in college and getting to one’s spots in the pros.  And it’s why those who have concern about Baldwin’s future are right to have it.  I just happen to disagree on the risk-reward proposition in this scenario, considering the fact that even if Baldwin bottoms out, he’s likely to be a decent NBA player.

Now onto our shorter list:

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1) Once again we have Jarret Jack, Jeff Hornacek, Chauncey Billups as close comparables.  But now we have another offensive name I find interesting, another guy who jumped from a likely late 1st rounder (or worse) as a sophomore to a legit Top 5 player as a junior, Deron Williams.  He’s also another Big PG without the Top End speed of guys like Rose and Westbrook.  That didn’t stop Williams from being a five or six time Top 10 offensive player.

The place again where Baldwin has a major advantage over Williams, he’s nearly an inch taller and his wingspan is nearly a half foot longer.

2)  Another we can see if we compare the two players, Williams was equally bad at converting on Two-Point Field Goal Attempts as a sophomore.  That’s a peak ahead to when we’ll talk about the areas of the game in which Baldwin is not as successful, but it’s true of a lot of the players.

3)  From watching Baldwin, I actually think the passing numbers might underrate his success in this area of the game.  I have no concrete evidence of it, but I always had the feeling that his teammates were leaving lots of points on the table with unconverted looks created by Baldwin.  (Anyone watching LSU and Ben Simmons probably had a similar feeling, though there’s more evidence of that.  You can just look at how bad Ben Simmons teammates were and realize that many of Ben Simmons numbers are likely being suppressed by how poor his teammates were.)

4) Regardless, the numbers are there.  Wade Baldwin, even compared to the cream of the crop, pretty good at passing.  Which is especially impressive because he wasn’t even a full-time PG as a Freshman.

Assist to Turnover Rate

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Here’s another place, somewhat surprisingly, Wade Baldwin does really well.  I always had the sense that Wade Baldwin was turning the ball over, sometimes because of his play and sometimes because of his teammates, so it was surprising when I found this:

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I’ll let the list speak for itself.

Rebounding Per 40

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Wade Baldwin’s success does not stop there.  Let’s take a closer look at rebounding:

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1) Wade Baldwin was fairly consistent as a Freshman and Sophomore.  That’s something we see from a few players.  Not only Baldwin, but Kyle Lowry, Andre Miller, James Harden, Steph Curry.  All players who rebound for their position in the NBA.

2)  We do have to remember the new shot clock, but on the whole, this is another data-point that ballparks one of Baldwin’s future NBA skills as likely average or above.

3)  That might be all Baldwin needs.  To be an MVP candidate, the player needs to be elite or super elite at something, but there are Top 10 guys who are merely big pluses in every area of the game without having any real deficits.  Kyle Lowry as one example.  Chauncey Billups as another.  (Though of course, there are arguments to be made about just how good these players were on defense.)

Shit Wade Baldwin Is Not As Good At

Two-Point Field Goal Percentage

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Wade Baldwin is not good at scoring from Two-Point Range.  A further demonstration:

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1) Wade Baldwin is really not good at scoring from Two-Point Range.  As we’ve already discussed, that’s mostly because Wade Baldwin is not good at finishing at the rim.  (This relates to the body control issue that causes some turnovers as well.)  Wade Baldwin is a quite capable mid-range jump shooter, even off his own dribble.

2)  The question then is what this means for Baldwin’s future.  Possibly something.  Likely not all that much.  As we can see, Kyle Lowry, Mark Price, Steve Nash, Chauncey Billups, Jeff Hornacek and others had similar two-point struggles at the same age and stage as Baldwin.  Players do get better at shooting in close, especially the ones who get really good at pulling up from distance.  Which is to say, don’t be surprised if this number, Baldwin’s ability to get Free Throws and Three-Point Shooting are closely related.  The better Baldwin is at shooting the basketball, the better he’ll likely be at everything else.

Since that’s the Baldwin skill that will alter the shape of the defense and allow the rest of his game to play.  Baldwin is not that different from Chauncey Billups in this regard, even if their games don’t exactly resemble each other on the surface.

Steals Per 40

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There’s clearly a disconnect in the NBA draft between how valuable players who can potentially initiate offense are, and how long they sometimes take to develop.  And we can see this by looking at the number of Point Guard prospects who were drafted outside of the Top 7 who became legit All-Star types.  And such Point Guards continue to be drafted beyond the Top of the draft despite their disproportionate effect on the game.  Not just Kyle Lowry, Jeff Hornacek, John Stockton, Tim Hardaway, Mark Price, Steve Nash, Jameer Nelson, Ty Lawson, etc . . . from this list, but also players like Jeff Teague, Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Reggie Jackson, Isaiah Thomas, Dennis Schroder (as a player who just went through his Age 22 season, he’s one who seems like he’s probably on an All-Star kind of path) and others from more recent drafts.

This is another Bias I failed to mention.  That subconsciously we treat all of the positions as if they are equally important, but it’s the players future role we have to judge.  Players who initiate offense just intrinsically have easier pathways to higher ceilings and these ceilings of value are very often underrated.  Which is to say, I don’t know why Wade Baldwin is rated as lowly as he continues to be, despite testing athletically almost exactly as one might expect from watching.  Not as a dunk contest talent, but right below, in that next tier of players that should have the athleticism to turn the corner on screens, especially if they can pop off the dribble.

This rant doesn’t have anything to do with the Steal Statistic, but I’d hope if Baldwin did better at this that he’d be rated more highly.  This lack of steals, especially for a player with Baldwin’s length, and not the Two-Point Field Goal Percentages is the biggest red flag in Baldwin’s statistical portfolio.  Why does he not get more steals?

Yet we do see a number of other very good Point Guard defenders in similar places to Baldwin:

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1) Most notably we see Gary Payton (as a Freshman), Kyle Lowry (as a Freshman), George Hill, Derek Harper, Russell Westbrook and Chauncey Billups.

2)  George Hill and Chauncey Billups are again particularly interesting, not just because they profile as the same kinds of Big Point Guards or Combo Guards that Wade Baldwin is, but because their defensive numbers through their first two years and all their ancillary indicators are basically identical to those of Wade Baldwin.  Which is to say they rebounded decently on the defensive glass, created new possessions at okay rates and played on mediocre or slightly better than mediocre college defenses.

These traits are pretty much what we see in the NBA.  Okay to better than okay defensive rebounding for the position, fairly average at creating steals, and yet these players played (or play) excellent NBA defense.  Which is to say, we can’t read too much into the numbers defensively.  Since, they don’t necessarily indicate any number of defensive events that actually alter and influence possessions.  Most obviously, what happens on the ball.

3)  What we see from Wade Baldwin is a player who is slightly inconsistent, and I think that might be because his focus and energy level tend to be lower when the team is ahead or playing even, then when they are behind.  If that continues, it could severely hamper him on the defensive end in the NBA.  We’ve seen better athletes completely fail on the defensive end (Tony Wroten for instance).  Nowhere does an NBA player need to be so focused and in tune as on the defensive end.  The smallest slip-up becomes a Steph Curry Three-Pointer, a Russell Westbrook dunk, a Lance Stephenson “I’m going to hold the ball and let you recover so I can restart the play from scratch”.

But we’ve also seen how good Baldwin can be when he does play at high energy.  This is one of the risks when you draft a player like Baldwin.  It doesn’t make a player like Baldwin a bad pick.  Because there are few players in this draft who could be as good as him, even if only 75% of his game pans out.

Blocks Per 40

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Let’s start out by saying blocks, for a Point Guard, are an incredibly small sample size events.  We’re often talking, even in the case of players who are good, about 8 or 9 blocks in a season.

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1) Looking at this now, I believe the Steals number for Curry’s Sophomore season might be a typo.  Seems entirely too low.

2)  Aside from that, this is one place in which Baldwin does separate himself from many of the poorer defenders at the position.  Jarrett Jack, Ty Lawson, Mark Price, Steve Nash, none of them put up a season like Wade Baldwin’s sophomore year in which he had 0.4 blocks per 40.

3)  Mookie Blaylock, who became a very good NBA defender, has a similar rise from one year to the next.  Blaylock from 0.1 Blocks per 40 to 0.5.  Baldwin from 0.2 to 0.4.

Now we shouldn’t make too much of these numbers.  We’re talking about 11 blocks in a season from Baldwin.  And 20 for Blaylock.  But again, their definitely seems to be a trend in that better defenders often do at least passably in blocks, even at the Point Guard position.  Indeed, at the top of the first list, we find some of the all-time greats.  Dwayne Wade, Gary Payton, Doc Rivers.

4)  This is to say, there’s a definite reason why our defensive projection of Baldwin shouldn’t be as high on Baldwin as it is on Dunn or Payton II.  That’s not to say there isn’t some possibility that he won’t outplay them on that end as well.

Turnovers Per 40

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Turnovers, Wade Baldwin doesn’t have great turnover numbers.  Though we’ve already seen they are hardly terrible judged against how often he creates opportunities for others.

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1) This is one place I expected Baldwin would be much worse when compared with his fellow Point Guard brethren.  Point Guards turn it over more.  They handle the ball more.  They pass the ball more often.  So we should expect these types of players to have higher turnover numbers, and, for most of them, we should expect that trend to continue into the NBA.  Still, I always had the impression Wade Baldwin would be worse.

2) Turnovers per 40 are one place where the new shot clock rules could make Baldwin look worse than he actually is.  More possessions equals more opportunities to turn the ball over.

3) Regardless of what the numbers suggest, if Baldwin doesn’t continue to improve his handle and/or fails to shoot consistently from three, this is an area of the game where I’d not be surprised to see Baldwin become worse.  That’s the worst case scenario projection.  The scenario where Baldwin moves to shooting guard on offense, or is a back-up PG going forward.  And like every player in this draft not named Simmons or Ingram, being a back-up is on the table as a future possibility.

The Most Similar Players to Wade Baldwin

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This first list is the guys from this group who do a lot of the same things well as Baldwin, mostly while not being great from Two-Point land.  There’s not the closest correlation to all of them, but in general, these are the guys who showed any aptitude to hit three-pointers, free throws, to pass the ball and to rebound.  (Again while not necessarily making a high percentage of Two-Point shots.)

Still, a lot of these guys were much better prospects than Baldwin (Isiah Thomas, Chris Paul, James Harden), noticeably so.  And some of them were worse prospects, notably Ben Gordon, since he didn’t have quite the same passing ability.  (Ben Gordon with better passing would have been awesome by the way.)   So we should thin out our list, mostly by removing these players who are worse than Baldwin at one end of the spectrum or the other.  Though I could understand if you wanted to include Gordon, Lillard (through Year 1 and 2), even D’Angelo Russell, as players who have features to their statistical profiles that are relatively similar to those of Baldwin.

Though we should be clear, such a list not meant to suggest that Baldwin is overwhelmingly similar to these players in the way that he plays.  Only to suggest that a number of players who have played as well as Baldwin through two years have gone on to more than a small amount of NBA success.

The Players Even More Similar Than Most

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This is our list.  Chauncey Billups, Jeff Hornacek, Wade Baldwin.  Okay at best at scoring from Two-Point Range.  Good FTr.  Relatively low Usage for this sample group.  Good three-point shooting in the case of Billups and Baldwin.  (I don’t believe they had threes yet in college when Hornacek was playing.)  Good, but not elite passing numbers.  Similar defensive numbers.  Not nearly as strong as Chris Paul or Kyle Lowry or even James Harden.  (Though good defensive numbers in college don’t necessarily translate to good defense, then or in the future.)  And apart from Billups’ Freshman season, excellent Assist to Turnover Rates.

Both types of careers are potentially on the table for Baldwin.  Both would be hugely positive offensive outcomes.  If he then manages to match, Billups defensively, that’s when you get Baldwin as a Top 5 to Top 8 player.  That’s one potential career path for Baldwin.  In terms of value, it’s very difficult to get there when discussing the majority of the players in this draft class, as it would be discussing the majority of players from any draft class.

The only real problem with Baldwin as a prospect is that we don’t have enough information since Point Guards often take a lot of time to cook.  Just look at the college careers of Steve Nash, of John Stockton, even of an athletic guy like Kevin Johnson.  No one was drafting these players with what they did through their first two seasons of their college career.  The fact that this is not true for Baldwin should tell us a lot about what kind of player he could be in the future.

Indeed, Point Guards are often undervalued come draft time.  Even more than that, the Freshman or Sophomore Point Guard is one of the most frequently undervalued types of players.  In recent years, we can find any number of prominent players chosen after the 15th pick in the draft:Rajon Rondo, Eric Bledsoe, Jeff Teague, Jrue Holiday, Cory Joseph, Avery Bradley, Javaris Crittenton are most recently these types of players.  I think you could make a fairly convincing argument that Tony Parker, Dennis Schroder, and Goran Dragic belong to this group as well.

Leaving aside Javaris Crittenton, who probably failed in large part because of off-the-court issues, we have a pretty decent range of positive outcomes from above average back-up (Cory Joseph) to solid regular (Avery Bradley) to all-star (Rajon Rondo, Jeff Teague, Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe is that type of player, Dennis Schroder likely at one point will be) to Hall-0f-Famer (Tony Parker).

It’s a similar story to the one told by the group of PG who were deemed good enough to have a qualifying AGE 20 NBA season, a list that Wade Baldwin is quite likely to join.  These guys end up at least decent.  Every one of the players that had the kind of shooting skill, vision and willingness to pass that Wade Baldwin has displayed ultimately ended up much better than that.Think about it this way.  Wade Baldwin will have two extra years of development before he completes his Age 21 season.  Kris Dunn was completing his Age 21 season last year, when he was a Redshirt Sophomore. Might we not be using our understanding of Age and Improvement rather selectively?

Just looking at the players who’ve been somewhat in the same ballpark as Baldwin in terms of skill, size, and athleticism, isn’t it more likely than not that Wade Baldwin will continue to improve?  I’m relatively unsure of this group of NCAA players beyond the Top 10 to 15.  I’m pretty sure about the Top 4 NCAA guys.  The players with the both the easiest avenues towards NBA stardom and the greatest likelihood of having some reasonably meaningful NBA future.  I can’t see a way in which Mr. Baldwin is not one of them.


  1. Enjoy your work. I’m operating on a very limited sample, but I noticed that Baldwin often goes to a finger roll when trying to finish around the rim. I wonder if something as simple as fixing that could be factor in improving his finishing ability in the paint.

    • Thanks. Yeah, I think there are a lot of potential fixes for Baldwin around the rim. That could definitely be one of them.

      It’s the easiest place on the floor to fix one’s shot mechanics, not just because it’s close, but because the NBA game is generally more open than the college one. It’s also a place where the more athletic, more skilled Point Guards often improve as they get older. Curry, Lillard, Lowry, Rondo, Westbrook (who shot 47% as a rookie in close), Chris Paul, James Harden, (also 47%), Reggie Jackson (very small sample), Jeff Teague, Kemba Walker, and even Lebron James improved a lot from when they were rookies.

      There’s no guarantees. He could be like Ricky Rubio (one of the few who started off bad at the rim and stayed that way) but if there’s a hole for a player with athleticism, this is the one that is probably most fixable. The lack of a fully developed handle(can be greatly improved with Curry as the best example) and the inconsistency of play, especially in the effort department, are the factors that are most concerning regarding Baldwin’s future. As they are much more likely to limit his future value.

      One thing that’s a little funny to me is that people are still confusing the fact that Baldwin’s handle isn’t where it needs to be with a lack of athleticism. It’s a skill that’s difficult to improve, but not impossible, so it could be one reason why Baldwin’s being seriously underrated. The fact that he can move over to Wing or Combo-G if it doesn’t get better does give him some safety as a prospect, at least if his shooting translates.

      Thanks again for your reply. It’s a great suggestion and potential fix.

  2. First off, just started reading your stuff and can’t get enough of it.

    Now back to Baldwin. I was wondering if you could do a comparison to Avery Bradley with him, as I could see him playing a similar role on some teams. Maybe even a rich man’s Bradley (I think Baldwin has more ball skills), but I’m not sure if he’s as good of a defender, although he has the tools to be better.

    Next, I really think a great fit for him would be in Utah playing off ball next to Dante Exum. He would be able to be patient with his creating skills as they have Hayward, Hood and Exum, and he could kind of spot up on the wings and hit open threes. I also think it would create an excellent defensive backcourt with him and Exum, as they could switch pretty constantly. Plus this would bring him even closer to your Jeff Hornacek comparison. Thoughts?

    • Thanks. Glad you are enjoying it.

      As for Baldwin and Bradley, I think that’s closer to a worst case scenario for Baldwin. He might not ever be the On-ball defender that Bradley is. Bradley is very good in that capacity and in certain match-ups exceptional. Baldwin has the tools to be so, but it takes more than tools. Where Baldwin rates as likely the far superior defender is in space defending and in rebounding. Around an inch advantage in height and around 4″ in Wingspan. That’s big. It could play dividends in all phases on defense, but it’s potentially huge off-ball in terms of recovery and affecting passing lanes.

      If you look at Bradley’s college numbers vs. Baldwin’s, it’s not really close. Less than 4 rebounds per 40, less than 3 assists per 40. 54% from free throw line. Rich man’s Avery Bradley is one possible career path. It’s definitely on that combo guard continuum that Jeff Hornacek is on the higher end of, but I think Baldwin’s has way better vision than many are giving him credit for. I’d say 95% of what will determine just how good Baldwin becomes is 1) If his handle can continue improving and 2) If he can continue getting better at shooting off the dribble and have it translate to the NBA three.

      Big questions. But Baldwin’s super young and has as good a chance as anyone in fixing these aspects of his game.

      As for Utah, I think he’s potentially a great fit. (Though I think Baldwin’s skill-set probably fits everywhere.) If you had he and Exum, you probably don’t need to define one or the other as the traditional PG. The best thing might be just to run the system that Hornacek instituted in Phoenix, which worked really well that first year with Bledsoe and Dragic. There’s basically no answer when a team has two players on the court that can dribble, pass, shoot, make good decisions and the offense allows both of them the freedom to create freely. You add in Hayward, Hood and Favors and there’s the potential to put an offense on the floor in which all five players have some ability to initiate, since Favors can play Center. In fact, I think that’s Utah’s biggest decision, do they decide to potentially consolidate some of their very good players into one player that’s excellent. With Favors and Hood, they could make a hell of an offer for Paul George for instance. (Not that I think Bird will trade him.)

      George-Hayward-Gobert, whoever. That’s a formidable core. Though it’s a little bit of wishful thinking.

  3. Good response. I think with Baldwin I like him much more as a combo guard who leans more towards off ball until he fixes his handle and PNR skills. So in that respect, I think a role like Bradley Beal would be really good for him. Beal is the better defender, but they seem pretty even coming out in every category, and Baldwin has more length.

    I think we differ slightly in that I like Baldwin off ball more and on ball less, but maybe I’m just reading you wrong. Anyways, thanks again for the response and get your ass on Twitter already.

    • I think it’s too early to tell with Baldwin. If we examined Curry after his Freshman or Sophomore year, we would have said there’s no way he could play Point Guard. Many were still saying it after his Junior year. Same thing with any number of guys who became successful at the position. Baldwin has the athleticism and vision to play the position.

      As for Beal, I think he’s pretty terrible on defense, especially for how athletic he is. I didn’t see him play a lot this year, so maybe he improved a lot, but prior to this year he was one of the worst players I’ve seen clearing screens, both on and off the ball. There’ll be a big leap for Baldwin, but I think Beal will be a relatively low bar to clear. (A major part of Washington’s “disappointing” season has to be tied to the fact that their players are mostly overrated (even Wall, whose excellent for an NBA player, but only above average for a Point Guard, which is the NBA’s deepest and most important position. I bet whoever signs Beal has buyer’s remorse.)

      As for our differences, my position is mainly that we don’t know yet. Most of the players the Baldwin resembles improved quite a lot between the Ages of 20 and 26 or 27. It’s hard to tell what skills he’ll add to his game, and how well he does at adding skills to his game will determine what role he can take at the next level. I’d use an off-ball role as a safe fall back option, and perhaps let him learn a little bit from that position. And hope that he continues to work and get better.

      • I agree with your comment about Baldwin’s upside being largely determined by his ability to improve as a ball handler. I typically associate ball handling as one of the more difficult skills for a player to improve and that gives me pause. I imagine the divide between your projection of him and where draftexpress has him is primarily based on a difference of opinion in of how much he can improve there.

        Chad Ford mentioned that there are teams that are completely turned off by Baldwin’s personality and I wonder whether that could be another factor in the disparity between rankings. I kinda get a weird vibe when I see him interact with his teammates/coach.

        My inclination was to want to slot him as more of a combo guard like Tim mentioned, but I agree with you about his vision. I love watching him make post entries from the top of the key or passing into the middle of a zone. His decision making I’m less sure of, but need to watch more of him. It’s annoying because there’s not a whole lot of game footage on youtube.

        I think he’s a better athlete than Beal. His body reminds me of a PG version of Norman Powell, minus some strength.

        • Wholly agree it’s one of the most difficult places for a player to improve, but it’s not impossible. Look at Curry’s improvement from a Freshman (could barely get a shot off by pull-up, almost wholly off-the catch), to Sophomore (not all that different from his Freshman year) to his junior year in college (lots of pull-ups and huge improvement in passing ability because he could now create advantages off the dribble) to now.

          Curry is an outlier as a player in most ways, so I’m not comparing Baldwin to him to suggest he’ll have that kind of improvement, just to show an extreme case where it happened and continues to happen before our eyes. It’s far from impossible and Baldwin has a very good first step that I think DraftExpress underrates as I also think they underrate his athleticism. (This happens on that site from time to time. Not super often, but for an example, check out their write-up of Jimmy Butler. And I think the opposite thing is happening now with Brandon Ingram, where some are potentially glossing over what may be legitimate athletic weakness because of his frame and the fact that he can shoot.

          I also think we are underrating Baldwin because of Kevin Stallings and Damian Jones. Not that Damian Jones is good, but the fact that Stallings chose to run this ridiculous high-low offense despite the fact that he had a PG who could get to the lane whenever he wanted to and either get fouled or make the correct pass and they had a whole slew of guys who could shoot (even if none of them could defend. Roberson was okay compared to Fisher-Davis and LaChance who were two of the worst defenders I’ve ever seen as college sophomores.)

          My projection of Baldwin has a lot to do with his potential upside, his athleticism, how much he improved his handle from year 1 to year 2 (it seemed like he could barely dribble as a Freshman) and his advancement at the PG position. He’s not a typical sophomore. He was 19 for basically the entire season. And the only thing keeping his stats down is that his coach chose not to make him the focal point of the offense. They would be even higher in terms of Points-Assists and possibly even efficiency. As Baldwin got his best looks when he was playing aggressive, and tended to fade out of games when running what Stallings wanted, passing the ball into Jones which worked okay, but not nearly as well as the other option he had available, especially when you have a center like Kornet who can draw the defense to the perimeter. Baldwin was driving into traffic, since Stallings basically always had a post in the game, either Jones or Henderson and those guys suck the defense towards the basket, which is one reason why Baldwin perhaps had some trouble finishing.

          The NBA really is a more open game, at least for most teams. (Check out the offense Cleveland was running in the 2nd half tonight. With Frye to suck Biyombo out onto the perimeter, everything was either an open three or a dunk.)

        • Put it this way, when speaking of Baldwin’s ranking: If Baldwin doesn’t continue to improve his handle (which is possible, either way) and is a combo-guard or off-ball player on offense, he still has all the offensive skills Brandon Ingram has + really good passing. Whereas Ingram might not have the athleticism to make much progress as a driver. (And athleticism, in terms of lateral quickness, is far more difficult and rarely improved than a player’s handle. Though ultra-skinny guys without muscle mass may be an exception, most ulta-skinny guys who end up as sudden start out as sudden as well.)

          After Simmons, there are are no sure things.

          As an aside, since it relates to Baldwin and Ingram, I don’t know why the NBA pretends that their lane agility drill tests foot quickness and agility. When Big guys are outperforming smaller guys (which happens every year), and not freak of nature guys either, it’s because the test is beatable with stride length. That’s not necessarily true for the NBA’s three cone drill. Stride length is very important in terms of closing out on defense, etc . . . but it doesn’t really answer what we want to know, which is, how well do these guys move laterally, how well do these guys change direction? Even though the action of the three-cone drill is more about how well these guys move in and out of breaks, I’d bet that this type of quickness, which requires some hip litheness, is much more related to what the NBA wants to know in terms of change of direction ability then the lane agility drill. Which is to say, it’s interesting to hold a combine event and then have multiple tests which don’t necessarily glean you any real information besides perhaps if the player is competitive. (The games as well. If you’re an off-ball perimeter player, you are cannon fodder in a game like that.)

  4. Good point about the flaw in the agility testing. I think guys are probably getting better at gaming those tests, too. I haven’t checked the data, but my perception has been that players like Stauskas with perceived athletic weaknesses have been able to fool some people by testing out better than expected at the combine and thereby get people dismissing their in-game results.

    I haven’t seen much of Ingram, but can’t get my head around the idea of anyone going ahead of Simmons. I didn’t realize that Vegas has odds on who goes first and Simmons is now the massive favorite. I also think folks are too quick to dismiss Ingram’s lack of strength. Probably true for Skal, too. Maybe I’m underestimating the ease with which they can pack muscle onto their frame, but it doesn’t strike me as a given.

    I think you could be onto something with your point about Baldwin’s underrated athleticism. I think his underdeveloped ball handling might be causing a mistaken attribution where people are underrating his quickness because of his lack of quickness with the ball in his hands. It’s exciting to think of how much his driving game could open if he’s able to improve his ball handling and it reminds me of your point about players with an athletic advantage being able to develop skills later into their career.

    I haven’t watched any of Baldwin as a freshman, but would be really curious to do so because of the ability to get a baseline on where he started out as a ball handler. If you can see an obvious progression and perceive a rate of improvement over such a short period of time, it bodes well for him going forward and allows you to make a stronger inference about his ability to continue to improve in the future.

    I like the way you’ve identified possible factors with the Vanderbilt offense that could be causing Baldwin to be underrated. I ran into that when trying to evaluate Zach LaVine, although that’s probably a clearer example. I’m going to watch for it.

    • Just in order:

      1. Ingram’s lack of strength could be an issue, but it’s also allows Ingram some hypothetical wiggle room in terms of getting better athletically. If Ingram was filled out and moved laterally the way he does, I think I’d have much bigger issues with the likely “Upside” projection people are pinning on him, and I already have some, since there’s maybe one player with Middleton’s lateral movement skills whose able to impact the game in a major positive way on defense (in Khris Middleton) and even then we’re talking about a guy whose an absolute expert off-the-ball and as a space defender. Most Wings who are very valuable as defenders are most valuable at the Point-Of-Attack.

      Which is to say, Ingram’s lack of strength is also a place where there’s some real potential for improvement. And while not a given, I’d say that an improvement in strength, for a player who is committed, is probably an area almost all players should be able to improve.

      2. It definitely seems Baldwin’s quickness is being underrated. He gets to the rim or gets fouled pretty regularly. Now I’m going to post a write-up by DraftExpress:

      “Offense: An extremely productive player who has developed considerably, but still has some holes to his game. Gets the chance to showcase himself as the centerpiece of Philadelphia’s offense, but doesn’t always show the skill-set to carry such a heavy load. Outstanding in transition first and foremost, is absolutely deadly in the open floor thanks to his strength and athleticism. Not quite as effective in the half-court, but still manages to produce in a major way. Lacks consistency on his 3-point shot, which may be the biggest part of his game holding him back. Makes his 2-pointers fairly efficiently. First step allows him to get to free throw line at a very good rate. Tough to stop once he has a head of steam. Finishes with authority. Can jump over defenders if he has to. Not all that effective in pure one on one situation, lacks some advanced ball-handling skills and tends to settle quite a bit for tough pull-up jumpers. Would be best suited trying to use his athleticism to get to the rim more effectively, but must become more fluid with the ball to do so. Has most of his problems when he’s forced to pull up off the dribble. Very good passer. Can drive and dish. Will generally make good decisions with the ball, and has adjusted to being a primary offensive threat. Was a versatile offensive player as a rookie, but has blossomed as a scorer as well.”

      That was about Andre Igudola and written by Jonathon Givony and Matt Kamalsky:

      It could easily be about Wade Baldwin, if you ignore the part about 3-pt consistency, and we definitely understand that Iguodola was definitely the more explosive athlete. “Not all that effective in pure one on one situation, lacks some advanced ball-handling skills.” Well, that clearly isn’t the case anymore and hasn’t been for some time. Iguodola became a pretty proficient Point-Forward and it didn’t take all that long to do so. And he definitely improved his handle considerably.

      I think this is one of the places where we miss. Just because most guys don’t develop their handle doesn’t mean it’s true for all players. Beyond that, we probably don’t notice when most players improve their handle (as Danny Green has, considerably, though it’s still nowhere close to elite) because they just aren’t sudden enough to win a one-on-one match-up in an NBA half court situation. The athletic guys are. Guys like Iguodola, Butler and Wade Baldwin, who is more than quick enough to qualify. And Wade Baldwin actually has vision and is a willing passer, just like Iguodola. And he’s big enough that if he starts working on a post-game, it might be over. No PG would be able to defend him in the post. There’s just a lot of ways he could improve where lesser players might not. And none of the holes in his game are likely to remain gaping long-term. If he were about to turn 22 I might have a different opinion, but he just turned 20.

      3. Baldwin definitely improved a lot since his Freshman year. Here’s what Stallings said in an interview on CBS Sports (thanks to Jon Rothstein): “I think that people will find that Wade Baldwin’s game has skyrocketed. He’s just gotten so much better. He may have improved in one year as much as any player that I’ve ever coached, and he’s a guy that can find all those guys we talked about who can make shots.”

      Now that didn’t show up that much in his statistics, but when you realize how much his role changed, in which most of what he did positively came off ball or off of action within the offense (Shelton Mitchell and Riley LaChance were much more likely to improvise) and this year where he was basically the only dependable guy Vanderbilt had with the ball in their hands, it’s a big difference.

      4. As For LaVine, I’d like to see how good he becomes. There’s always potential with a guy that athletic, but I hated the way he played at UCLA. Being an off-ball player doesn’t stop a guy from being able to get to the rim, to pass to his teammates, from putting in effort on D. And if he doesn’t put in effort on D and remains a 2G, which he probably is, it’s probably not going to matter how good he gets on offense. He’ll be okay overall, but he’ll be overrated. From this standpoint, Tom Thibodeau was a great hire. If he can get LaVine to play up to the potential of athletic ability on Defense, you already have a plus player and maybe a borderline all-star without much improvement elsewhere. If he improves, as his athleticism allows, you may get a truly great player. But context matters. If we do see such an improvement, I’d have to credit the coaching a lot for getting the most out of LaVine as a player. It’s something I doubt we would have seen if Mitchell had been allowed to continue coaching, or with most of the guys Minnesota could have hired.

      The difference Thibodeau could make for both LaVine and Wiggins could be huge. We’ll see. But there the rare team in history where we could see a major jump in production from 3 Core players in the same year in Towns, Wiggins and LaVine. If Bender falls to them and is as good as he’s supposed to be, it could be even better. There also a team where it might make sense to make a pitch for a young guy like Dario Saric, whose price is probably much cheaper now than it will be two years from now.

  5. I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance to watch the Draftexpress video analysis of Baldwin, but I watched it today and was impressed with the depth of their insight. I usually try to avoid those videos because I’m trying to develop my ability own perspective through watching game footage and didn’t realize they’re as thorough as they are.

    If you get a chance to watch it, I’d be curious to know your thoughts on their analysis. One problem is that although they can be very accurate from a descriptive standpoint, they don’t necessarily put it into a larger evaluative context, although I guess the mock/prospect ranking serves that purpose.

    I liked your comparison to Iguodala and wish I remembered more about how his ball handling was perceived prior to him being drafted. As as Raptors fan, I’ve been witness to the improvement to Derozan’s ball handling in recent years. So many of the questions I have with Baldwin center on his transition from playing off the ball as a wing to on the ball as a PG and the issues of body control and ball handling seem stereotypical for players making that change. I grew up believing in that old quote “point guards are born, not made” and felt it was true largely because of my perception of the innateness of ball handling ability.

    It would be interesting to look more closely at other players that have made the move to off the ball to on the ball, historically. Is Jrue Holiday an example? I can’t remember, but I think Lawson was still starting at PG at UCLA during his Holiday’s only season.

    A couple of minor points: we often talk about winspan/standing reach, but leave out a component of that measurement, hand size. Baldwin has big hands, and I figure that’s a positive factor in his chances of improving as a ball handler.

    I’m still having a tricky time trying to get a feel for Baldwin’s athleticism. I think I may have been operating on the assumption that he was a better athlete than he is, and this is where I’m curious whether you agree with DraftExpress’ position on his lack of explosiveness. His lateral quicks look better, though, and that’s probably more significant.

    I agree with you about LaVine at UCLA. I haven’t watched him much at all since he’s got to the league, but I picked him as the player I felt was most likely to bust of the highly ranked players from his draft. I’ve been surprised by some of the box scores he’s put up.

    • I didn’t watch the video, but I saw Baldwin live a lot, and I just watched the beginning of that DX video. I’d have major questions about Baldwin too if that’s all I had seen, especially in his ability to be a PG. We’re cherry picking the low lights of the season, and basically pointing out what we already know, his dribbling is not where it needs to be. (Take TJ McConnell for instance. No one’s idea of an elite athlete or even a plus one, but he gets to his spots because he can keep his dribble. In Baldwin’s case, it’s the opposite right now. And I really believe we are in large part mistaking Baldwin’s dribbling ability for lateral quickness. They are too different aspects of his game, though both affect his ability to go by people easily.)

      Make no mistake, Baldwin’s not Westbrook. He’s not DRose. He’s not John Wall. He’s not Dunn, and he’s definitely not Payton II. Which is to say, he’s good but definitely not elite in that respect. And to play in the NBA, he’ll need skills besides being athletic. (That’s true of many of the most successful PG of the last 40 years. Many of whom rate well below Baldwin on the continuum of athletic PG, and many of whom didn’t show much in college until their junior or senior years, when they were 1, 2 or even 3 years older than Baldwin is now.)

      The thing is, he might have these attributes. None of those players are currently or project to be the jump shooter than Baldwin very possibly will be. (I’m talking about the super athletic guys here.) This is important. Really, it’s not just Baldwin’s handle that needs to improve, the jump shooting part of the story needs to play out for him to be a legit PG. Without a jumper off the dribble, he’s an off-ball player. End of story. Though perhaps a very good one.

      Just think of Chauncey Billups, another guy with this level of good but not great NBA athleticism. He became great because he had a great jump shot. He’s far from the only PG this applies to. It really is a skill that allows the rest of a player’s game to consolidate, so long as they are not Isaiah Canaan. It makes them threats even when the ball is not in their hands, but more than that, it makes them (or made them in Billups case) impossible to play on screens. The difference between the defender having to track a player over a screen or being allowed to roll under it is huge. It’s the difference between having a clear lane, or forcing a switch, and coming back to neutral position in which precious seconds were wasted (unless you are early career Rondo or DRose and are so fast that you can beat the hedge man and the player rolling under the screen).

      As for Baldwin’s athleticism, I think he’s incredibly fast in the open court. I think his first step gets him by defenders regularly, and when it doesn’t he sometimes is in trouble, since his handle can’t bail him out if there’s no place to pass it.

      Probably, the best thing to do if you want to get a handle of Baldwin’s athleticism is to watch the last two games he played. The first half vs. Tennessee in the SEC tournament is one of the least impressive displays of basketball from a Top prospect you’ll ever see. (Vanderbilt was very flat.) The second half, when he’s playing hard is like night and day. He gets wherever he needs to go. He makes plays inside and outside. (This is my biggest question going forward, much more so than his handle which he can overcome with a position switch in a worst case scenario. Why is Baldwin’s effort so much better when the team is in a hole?)

      There’s also a dunk in that game I believe that’ll detail very well his level of explosiveness (very good, but not elite) and also just how important those long arms and large hands are. If I’m remembering right, he takes off just beyond the restricted area, but also rims it and needs every inch of his body to power it through, whereas a guy like Westbrook or Payton II or Rose gets it clean. And at the end of the game, there’s a play in which he travels nearly end to end with the ball in what appears to be less than 4 seconds and gets a lay-up (which just missed counting.)

      Then watch Witchita St. game while forgetting the box score, especially the first half. The play where Fred Van Vleet rips him was bad. (Though he also just with strength got to the block, where a more mature player would have turned, sealed his man and initiated a post possession.) What that video doesn’t show is what seemed like 8-13 passes he made in the first half that resulted in legitimate Assist Opportunities, which were ultimately bricked. (It’s a close game if Damian Jones hits free throws, catches the ball cleanly, and the team makes even 3 of the 16 shots they missed from three.)

      We don’t generally give Point Guards credit for the misses they create, but it’s one major flaw in our evaluation of Point Guards. Those 14 non-Baldwin misses from Three, most of those were set up by Baldwin after he got into the teeth of the Witchita St. defense, and it collapsed. There were also two turnovers as much on his teammates as they were on Baldwin. (Jones missed catching a pass that should have been a dunk opportunity. Baldwin turnover. On another play, the rest of the team forgot what play they were running, and instead of Baldwin throwing the ball out of bounds he took a travel.) That was common with Vanderbilt.

      If Baldwin weren’t 19 through most of the year, I’d be much less hopeful with respect to potentially fixing his weaknesses. But he was. It has to be a major part of the evaluation. As is the fact that if he fails at PG (wholly possible), he’s still probably the best Wing prospect in this draft not named Brandon Ingram, as his skills definitely play from an off-ball position.


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