Monday, January 4, 2016

Wade Baldwin IV

The big names at the LSU vs. Vanderbilt game on Saturday were Ben Simmons and Damian Jones but the most intriguing individual match-up was on the perimeter between two super-sized PG's - Wade Baldwin  IV (6'3 195 with a 6'10 wingspan) vs. Tim Quarterman (6'6 190 with a 6'10 wingspan). DraftExpress has Baldwin (a sophomore) at No. 19 in their mock draft and Quarterman (a junior) at No. 36.

LSU won thanks to a brilliant performance from Simmons but Baldwin clearly win the match-up at PG. The individual stat-lines from this one kind of say it all:

Baldwin - 17 points, 7 assists on 1 turnover, 6 rebounds, 3 steals on 7 shots (2-4 from 3, 9-10 from the FT line)
Quarterman - 5 points, 3 assists on 2 turnovers, 5 rebounds, 2 steals on 5 shots

Baldwin (No. 4 in brown) completely shut down Quarterman (No. 55 in purple) in this game. He's a fantastic defender because he plays with an edge and he has every physical tool you would want on that side of the ball. He's long, quick, strong and physical. Quarterman is used to being able to shoot over the top of just about any defender he sees at the NCAA level - Baldwin's 6'10 wingspan means he is never out of play and it really gave Quarterman a lot of trouble.

Baldwin's deceptively long reach allows him to get into passing lanes and pick up a lot of steals and deflections from players who don't expect him to be able to get to balls. Here he is stoning Quarterman on the pick-and-roll and tipping his dump-off pass out of bounds:

Baldwin was playing so well defensively that Kevin Stallings even tried him on Simmons for stretches of the game. And while no one at the NCAA level is going to be able to shut down the LSU star, Baldwin held his own when he got the assignment. Maybe the most intriguing aspect of his defense is that his broad shoulders, long arms and physical streak allow him to survive against much bigger players on the block. Baldwin ended up fouling Simmons a couple of times when he posted him up but Simmons couldn't just bully him either. He's well built and he's hard to move down there.

What that means is that Baldwin could conceivably switch screens in the pick-and-roll at the next level, which is one of the most important aspects of PG defense. It's one of many things you have to love about a PG with a 6'10 wingspan.

His offense has taken a big step forward this season as well. Baldwin can do a little bit of everything - he can shoot from deep, score off the dribble, run the offense and create shots for everyone else. The thing I love about him is that he just knows how to play. Here he is drawing a foul on Quarterman in transition and using his strength and his ability to change speeds to keep the longer and faster defender off balance.

Vanderbilt does a great job of spreading the floor for Baldwin - he's a PG in a 4-out offense with a great roll man (Damian Jones) and three shooters around him. He can draw the defense and hit the big man on the roll:

He has the speed and ball-handling ability to get into the lane and the passing vision to find his shooters on the perimeter. He could have easily had 10+ assists on Saturday if Vanderbilt had knocked down all the 3's he was creating for them:

If you give him too much space, he can also shoot 3's off the dribble (shooting 47.6% from 3 on 3.5 attempts a game):

There's just not a lot of things that Wade Baldwin can't do on a basketball court and there aren't many holes in his game, which is pretty rare for a 19-year old PG. Here's what I really like about him in comparison to a lot of the other PG's in this year's draft:

1) He can survive defensively against much bigger players, which you allows you to play him as a SG in a 2 PG line-up. There aren't a lot of wings in this year's draft so Baldwin's size and defensive chops means you can play him as an ersatz wing and have all the benefits of 3-and-D play on the perimeter while also adding another creator and passer.

2) He can shoot off the dribble from deep well, which is becoming more and more important in the modern game.

3) For a young PG, he almost never gets sped up and he generally plays under control. He just has a very high "feel" for the game, which is very important when you are evaluating a player as a primary or even secondary ball-handler.

And he can also do stuff like this. He doesn't make this dunk but I love the athleticism and the courage it takes to even try to pull something like this off:

He dominated LSU's bevy of NBA athletes on the perimeter and he has a chance to play his way into the lottery if he can play as well against Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe when Vandy plays Kentucky. When it's all said and done, I wouldn't be surprised if Baldwin ends up being the best PG prospect in the country.

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