San Antonio Spurs 19th Overall Pick: Patrick Baldwin Jr.
I won’t beat around the bush with Patrick Baldwin -- his freshman season playing for his father in Milwaukee has been all but a train wreck. He was my most anticipated NBA prospect coming into the college basketball season, and as it turns out, Jabari Smith has been everything Baldwin was supposed to be and much, much more. The 6’10” “shot-maker” that shone so brightly in the FIBA U19 Tournament has done anything but that this season, only managing to scrape together 12.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists on 34/27/74 shooting splits.
Outside of having the ability to play for his father, Baldwin choosing to play for Milwaukee meant betting on his ability to create his own shot, create opportunities for others, and generally being the go-to guy for a team lacking high-level talent. Unfortunately for him, this gamble may end up coming back to bite him in a big way. Baldwin was widely considered a top 10 prospect coming into the college basketball season but now will likely need to seriously turn some heads in the pre-draft process to even flirt with the top ten.
Even so, while Baldwin certainly has not lived up to the hype this season, many analysts still project him to be selected in the first round, if not the late lottery. Finding an 18-year-old high-level shot creator is relatively rare, to begin with, and finding one that is as fluid as he is at 6’10” is borderline unheard-of.
I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a team gamble on him earlier than the 19th pick purely because of that, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see teams pass up on Baldwin for a player that is more projectable in the league. If he makes it all the way to 19, though, he’s a gamble that the Spurs can afford.
In theory, Baldwin should be a seamless fit with the Spurs’ current roster. He can be sent to Austin to work out any kinks that may have been holding him back in college, learn how to play more aggressive defense, and generally get accustomed to professional basketball. If he were to begin getting minutes off the bench in San Antonio, Doug McDermott could then serve as a valuable teacher for him there.
Ultimately, there are undeniably some serious concerns with Baldwin’s game. But if there’s a player on the board in the final third of the first round that fills a position of need and has serious All-Star potential, selecting that player shouldn’t be much of a decision. In this case, Baldwin could turn into a serious steal for the Spurs if he can return to being the player many thought he was.