Former 5-star recruit Patrick Baldwin Jr. was expected to be the best college player in the country this season but failed to live up to expectations. Despite that, he could still be an option for theSan Antonio Spurs, considering he's a highly skilled prospect and they have three 1st round picks.
At 6'9 with a 7'0 wingspan, Baldwin Jr. has the size needed to play power forward but has the skill set of a guard. That makes him a highly unusual player and, in the right situation, he could still live up to the hype. Could San Antonio be that right situation? Let's take a closer look at whether or not the Spurs should draft Baldwin Jr.
Baldwin Jr. played just 11 games this season, and while he showed flashes of being a great player, he was mostly bad. After all, he connected on just 34.4% of his shots, which is hard to do. Despite that, he demonstrated the ability to create his own shot. He even displayed impressive dribble moves that allowed him to get separation on threes or get by his defender and into the paint.
That shot creation may come in handy at the next level, but it probably won't be something that he'd be asked to do on a regular basis -- especially since he wasn't able to do it consistently at the college level. Instead, he'll likely play mostly off-ball, where his 3-point shooting ability should translate.
He drilled just 26.6% of his 5.8 3-point attempts per game, which obviously isn't good, but his form looks great, and he certainly has confidence taking them. Maybe too much confidence, judging by his shot selection -- which included contested step-backs, spot-ups, and pull-up threes. Though were that to be reigned in, he could definitely shoot it better in the NBA.
The Spurs should take a chance on Patrick Baldwin Jr
Baldwin Jr.'s stock has really fallen after being viewed as a probable top-10 pick in the NBA Draft previously. According to recent mock drafts, he could actually be selected in the teens or even in the twenties. I expect that to change, however, with the upcoming NBA Draft Combine and individual workouts providing him a chance to remind teams of his talent.
That should help raise his stock, but it may be a reach for San Antonio to select him with their own pick, which is currently projected to be 8th overall. That's not to say that the Spurs shouldn't draft him, but perhaps they could with one of their two other 1st round picks if he's still available.
One possibility is that the Spurs combine Toronto and Boston's picks to try and acquire a second top-10 pick. In that case, he'd make sense as a "swing for the fences" type of pick. Once in the NBA playing less of a starring role, he could actually thrive as a versatile stretch four. That said, he'll have to work on his effort level on both sides of the ball to excel in that role.
Regarding his potential fit with the Spurs, he likely wouldn't start but should be a rotation player next season. However, assuming he lives up to his significant potential, he could quickly become a starter and play alongside Dejounte Murray, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, and Jakob Poeltl.
His ability to knock down threes, get out in transition, and create for himself off the dribble could be very useful. He's also proven effective running off screens and hitting mid-range jumpers or getting into the paint and using his length and size to finish around the basket.
Defensively, he's struggled sometimes out on the perimeter because of his lack of lateral quickness. Fortunately, his length and timing helped him compensate, and he was often able to block shots and deflect or steal passes.
With more effort on the defensive end, he could be at least decent, particularly if paired with Murray, Vassell, Johnson, and Poeltl. He has a chance to develop into an above-average two-way starting four, something the Spurs definitely need.
Baldwin Jr. is a unique talent with a high ceiling, but his play this season has caused his stock to fall. That may not dissuade San Antonio, however, if they believe in his talent.
That doesn't guarantee that they will draft him, but with multiple picks, they should. If they do, Baldwin Jr. could provide them with a big talent boost at a position of need.