The Grizzlies needed shooting this off-season. They addressed that need by taking Wade Baldwin IV with the 17th pick of the NBA Draft.
The Memphis Grizzlies found themselves in an odd place during this year’s NBA Draft. They had just concluded a season in which they were ravaged by injuries, and franchise mainstay Mike Conley was an impending free agent.
This brought many questions regarding which direction the team should go with the 17th overall pick. Should they target a shooter? An insurance policy at point guard? Should they acquire some youth for the frontcourt? Well, the Grizzlies answered the first two of those questions with one player.
Enter former Vanderbilt guard, Wade Baldwin IV.
At 6’4” with very good perimeter shooting, Baldwin fits the mold of a good combo guard in today’s NBA. His ability to stretch the floor makes him a good fit for the rebuilt Grizzlies bench and many have high hopes for Baldwin as an immediate contributor.
Here in this player preview of Baldwin, we will break down what you can expect to see from him in his rookie season.
2015-2016 Season Overview
2015-2016 Per Game Averages (At Vanderbilt): 14.1 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.8 turnovers
2015-2016 Shooting Percentages: .427 (FG)/.406(3-pt)/.799 (FT)
Baldwin had some very high expectations heading into his sophomore campaign at Vanderbilt last season. He was coming off of a very promising freshman season in which he set the Vanderbilt freshman assists record, and many tabbed him as a preseason SEC Player of the Year candidate.
While Baldwin was not the dominant star that some expected to see, he still put together a very nice season. Though his field-goal percentage wasn’t great, his three-point percentage was very good at nearly 41% from behind the arc. His scoring was solid, but inconsistent at times. It appeared that Baldwin sometimes tried to do too much and tried to carry the Commodores on his own back.
Defensively, Baldwin was a menace. He used his NBA size and length to trouble opposing guards and create problems for them, as he could guard multiple positions with his 6’11” wingspan.
Baldwin did face some challenges with being a pure point guard. He is a solid passer but struggles in the department of creating for others. As the season went on, though, Baldwin managed to settle into his identity as more of a combo guard and formed a nice inside-outside duo with fellow first round pick, Damian Jones.
He was erratic at some points last season, but he was still able to lead the ‘Dores to a NCAA Tournament appearance, their first since 2012. He was the leading scorer on the team and was clearly their best pro prospect and most talented player. His inconsistencies on the court may have caused him to slip out of the late lottery range that he was projected in, but he was still drafted at a solid slot into a good situation for himself.
Baldwin was a prospect in this year’s draft that was tabbed to be more pro-ready than many of his peers.
His scoring ability is very good, as he’s relentless in attacking the rim and is already a very good outside shooter. Defensively, he can defend either guard spot, using his length as a weapon on that side of the ball.
The ability to come into the game and score is something that the Grizzlies have needed for years. He’s not going to come in and be Jamal Crawford this season, but he is certainly capable of providing a nice punch in the second unit.
With the Grizzlies spending a mid-first round pick on Baldwin, it can be expected that he’s going to get a chance to earn the spot as the third guard on the team. Guard depth is not a strength of the Grizz and Baldwin is arguably the most talented guard on the team behind Mike Conley.
His combo guard skill set fits as a bench player, as it will allow him to come in and score points. Baldwin would also be a great fit as a 2-guard in any small-ball lineups that the Grizzlies would want to deploy.
Role Projection: 8th man in the rotation, 3rd guard behind Conley and Tony Allen
Best Case Scenario for 2016-2017
Baldwin’s tools and how he fits on this roster give him the opportunity to make a big impact. And it could be sooner than many expect if everything goes well for him.
It’s no secret that Tony Allen isn’t getting any younger, and that his outside shooting is shaky. Say Baldwin thrives in his role off the bench, scoring effectively and efficiently. His ability to score, while still being a good defender, could give the Grizzlies a dynamic 2-guard alongside Conley and Chandler Parsons on the outside.
Even if Baldwin doesn’t officially become a member of the starting lineup in that scenario, he could still play big minutes as a sixth man, and Allen could play less minutes as a starter. The rotation could resemble what the Oklahoma City Thunder did with James Harden and Thabo Sefolosha years ago.
This scenario would require Baldwin adjusting to the NBA game very quickly, but it could certainly happen given how developed he already is. Baldwin may not have star player potential, but he does have a high floor. He could absolutely become a major contributor for the Grizzlies as a high-usage sixth man or even a starter at shooting guard.
Worst Case Scenario for 2016-2017
Rookies often struggle to adjust to the speed of the NBA, and the transition is tougher for some than it is others.
The worst thing that can happen to Baldwin is that he cracks under the pressure of entering the NBA. Whether it’s due to chronic turnovers, defensive lapses, ineffective offense, or mental breakdowns, many rookies find themselves riding the pine for a year before they find a real role in the NBA.
Especially in a veteran-rich environment like Memphis, making those types of mistakes can find you a spot on the bench rather quickly. Baldwin will probably face a situation this season where he’s benched for a rookie mistake, but he must push through it and learn from it, as opposed to making it a pattern and losing confidence.
Baldwin could find himself out of the rotation if he struggles to adjust to the NBA for an extended period of time, and if someone else emerges as a guard option off the bench. If those two things happen, this could be a lost season for Baldwin from a production standpoint.
All logic points to Wade Baldwin IV being a great fit for the Memphis Grizzlies.
His ability to score, coupled with his tools to be a good defender, could give them a great young weapon off the bench for this season and beyond. The guard depth for the Grizzlies is not a strength, as there are a lot of unproven players. This will give Baldwin the opportunity to earn a role as a rookie if he plays within the system.
Baldwin might not live up to that “Best Case Scenario” that was laid out earlier, but that is definitely possible for Baldwin given the circumstances. His ability to score is real, and he could give the Grizzlies an aspect and punch that they have lacked in recent seasons.
No one is labeling Baldwin the next face of the franchise, but he could certainly be a nice cog in the core of the future for this team. Baldwin provides the Grizzlies a high-floor player that could be a very good rotation contributor for years to come. Given his current skill set, it’s very reasonable to expect Baldwin to provide a solid 20 minutes per game off the bench, providing the shooting and scoring ability that the Grizzlies need from wherever they can get it.