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Memphis Grizzlies 2016-2017 Player Grades: Wade Baldwin IV

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Grading Wade Baldwin IV’s up-and-down rookie season

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Wade Baldwin: NBA

Statistic #
Statistic #
Points Per Game 3.2
Assists Per Game 1.8
Turnovers Per Game 1.2
PER 6.6
TS% 0.407
MPG 12.3

Wade Baldwin D-League

Statistic #
Statistic #
PPG 12.9
APG 5.3
TPG 3.2
PER 14.5
TS% 0.52
MPG 28.2

Wade Baldwin IV was selected with the 17th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

This was before free agency, before Mike Conley’s name became synonymous with the contract that will most likely keep him in Memphis until 2021. At draft time, Memphis likely had a good idea that Conley was going to stay a Grizzly, but it was no certainty. This could have been their best chance to get their point guard of the future if Conley decided to walk. If Mike stayed, which he did (sorry for the spoiler), Wade Baldwin could learn under him for a couple of years before hopefully he either became the starter or entrenched himself as solid backup point guard.

None of those scenarios have played out--yet. Fans who smash the REBUILD! button at the end of the season have been a lot quieter this off-season because of Mike Conley’s play all season. He went above and beyond on the big stage of the playoffs, but he was damn good in the regular season too. All-Star appearances be damned. Wade Baldwin is not taking his starting spot anytime soon.

As for entrenching himself as the backup point guard, that hasn’t happened either. Instead, fellow rookie Andrew Harrison has claimed that spot since the Toney Douglas Experience flamed out. Harrison and Baldwin, just by the nature of being rookie point guards on the same team, are going to be tied at the hip as long as possible, being compared at every turn. Comparison is the thief of joy. Comparing Russell Westbrook and James Harden is fun, and also necessary to determine the MVP from this season. But comparing Harrison and Baldwin now in such early stages of their career is a moot point.

First, Andrew Harrison got a full year of seasoning with the Iowa Energy in the 2015-16 season. Meanwhile, this is Wade Baldwin’s transactions section on basketball-reference.com

Baldwin has been an in-and-out of the D-League a crazy amount of times. It’s difficult enough for a rookie to try to integrate himself within a team and its offense, it’s got to be even harder trying to build chemistry with two different teams within the same year. Since the final recall from the Iowa Energy in February, Baldwin logged 96 minutes in just 9 appearances. In the same span, Andrew Harrison had played 312 minutes in 16 games. It’s apples and oranges comparing their two seasons.

They’re both rookies and young players have different learning curves. Some are quick to contribute and/or develop, others are late-bloomers. Wade Baldwin, and Andrew Harrison too for that matter, isn’t an established commodity yet.

So the evaluation needs to take all of these factors into consideration. The lack of minutes and flip-flopping between Des Moines and Memphis are going to hurt his production, so it's important to look at what Wade Baldwin tried to do.

Baldwin isn’t racking up assists, but is he at least making good passes? When he commits turnovers are they from bad decisions, bad passes, or bad ball-handling? Do defensive lapses occur because of mental errors or lack of hustle? When there aren’t enough stats to tell the story, looking for the traits of young players will tell you just as much, if not more about their performance. Here is what Baldwin does well already, followed by what needs improvement.

Strengths:

Wade Baldwin is an ACTIVE player. When you’re a rookie on a fringe spot on the roster, you have to try hard. But Baldwin’s full effort is at 120%. When he’s defending, his hands are always moving and annoying his opponent. The fact that Baldwin is quick with long arms makes it even better. He can play passing lanes and give his match-up some space while still keeping in contact with him. His margin of error is a lot bigger considering his athleticism and it gives him a chance to gamble. He uses the tools he has in his disposal well.

Here’s where Baldwin looks dominant defensively. He forces Marcelo Huertas between himself and the sidelines where Huertas had no choice but to go towards a clogged rim. Huertas tries to get some room to pass the ball to Lou Williams, and there’s Wade Baldwin’s long arms to get in the way. He steals the ball and throws it up court to Tony Allen for the layup.

This isn’t a steal or block, but it still shows how active Baldwin is on defense. The exact instant Vucevic loses grip of the basketball, Baldwin paws it out of his hands, tips it again from Evan Fournier, and immediately begins the transition play by throwing it to JaMychal Green. A heady play made by a rookie.

I’m also a huge fan of Wade Baldwin’s decisiveness. When he’s in a situation he likes, he attacks immediately. Whether he gets the ball against a scrambling defense or gets a big man after a switch on a screen, Baldwin makes a decision quickly. It’s not to say he makes the best decisions, but making decisions quickly forces the defense to be reactive rather than proactive.

In this play, Cory Joseph leaves Wade Baldwin open on the 3-point line to help impede Jarell Martin’s drive to the basket. Martin kicks it out to Baldwin who blows past a recovering Joseph to get just enough separation for the layup. If Baldwin had pump-faked or taken another second, Joseph could have stopped him and forced a pass. But Wade’s decisiveness was not only helpful, but crucial on this play.

Wade Baldwin is raw, but he has the above tools in his toolbox. His defense effort, which will only get better as he learns the game, is promising, and he plays with a lot more confidence than most rookies. It’s not the irrational confidence where rookies think they’re the next big thing and take dumb shots, but the confidence of a player that knows his next step and what he wants to do. And he has the body to impose that will on occasion.

Areas of Improvement:

Scoring and passing. Two areas you usually want your point guards to be proficient in. These are not areas that Wade Baldwin is proficient in.

Wade Baldwin is far, far, below league-average as a 3-point shooter, in the paint, and in the mid-range game. There’s no way to make that shot chart look good and there aren’t any promising aspects of it. Being this bad at all 3 levels of scoring is troubling. He shot 84% from the free throw line, but needs to get to the line more often than he currently does (37 attempts in 33 games) to make a difference with his scoring at his current level of efficiency.

Baldwin has a TS% of .407, which is the worst on the Grizzlies and one of the worst in the league. In fact, among players with as many minutes played as Wade Baldwin, he is 2nd to last in that category, only above Semaj Christon of the OKC Thunder.

Baldwin plays better when the game is faster, and sometimes he tries to force the issue which leads to mistakes.

In this play, he’s leading the push up the floor, but the Spurs have the numbers advantage with Marc Gasol trailing. If Baldwin was more patient, he wouldn’t have to do everything by himself. But instead, he doesn’t make a single pass and tries a floater against King Floater himself, Tony Parker. It doesn’t end well and it’s a frustrating play, especially for a team that rarely rushes itself on offense.

This is a side effect of great hustle, just ask Tony Allen. Sometimes it can lead you to attempting to do too much and forcing the issue. It’s a part of the maturation process of the NBA player, learning how to harness your speed and power. Players need to sometimes take a step back to trust their teammates on a specific play.

Another example of this is this foul against the Dallas Mavericks. Devin Harris drives to the rim after getting the ball and the entire Grizzlies defense surrounds him. However, Baldwin goes for the strip from behind and gets called for a foul for the slap. Harris was well-contained in the paint and was looking to pass, but Baldwin fouls anyway when he should have just stayed on JJ Barea, or kept his hands to himself while Devin Harris is surrounded by 5 Memphis Grizzlies.

As I said earlier, Baldwin isn’t particularly talent as a passer either. 23.5% of Wade Baldwin’s possessions ended in an assist, with a turnover rate of 22.5%. Mike Conley and Andrew Harrison, the other 2 point guards on the Memphis roster, have assist/turnover rates of 34.5/11.7 and 20.0/16.0, respectively.

Overall Grade:

Wade Baldwin is incredibly raw. The fact is the amount of minutes he’s received and the constant D-League/main roster movement should be a sign that Baldwin is still not NBA-ready.

He doesn’t have to be, either. The Grizzlies’ draft history is pretty bad already, so having a first-round pick looking like he somewhat belonged is a victory. But he’s not deserving of a permanent spot in the rotation based off of this season.

For the opportunities Baldwin did receive, he performed amicably. He didn’t give off superstar flashes, or even All-Star flashes, but he clearly has a foundation to build off of. When the Vanderbilt product made a mistake, it was usually a mental error, which is something to appreciate.

That goes against everything coaches usually say, that they prefer physical errors to mental errors. Physical errors are mistakes no one can avoid, but mental errors are attributed to poor preparation and concentration. Baldwin is growing, so he is going to be prone to these mental errors earlier in his career. He’ll learn from this and learn the game better which will cut down on those mistakes.

As Wade Baldwin’s season stands, I give him a C-minus. He showed the Grizzlies his potential as a defender and plays hard all the time, the two things Memphis fans can truly appreciate. If he had been less of an offensive liability, the grade would have been higher, but for now, a C-minus makes sense.

Final Grade: C-

Stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com, NBA.com/stats, and video clips courtesy of 3ball.io

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