Wade Baldwin IV was the most complete point guard to play for Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt.
The 6'4, 202 pound athlete gave the Commodores a little bit of everything as his team's floor general. He could score, leading his team with 14.1 points per game as a sophomore. He could shoot, draining 42.2 percent of his three-pointers against NCAA competition. He could create shots for his teammates, averaging 4.8 assists per game in his career. He could rebound (4.1 per game) and provide lockdown perimeter defense thanks to his strong core and long arms. And few players in Vanderbilt history have ever wanted to win more than Baldwin.
But that competitive fire can be a drawback for some NBA insiders.
Baldwin's slow climb back up the mock draft ladder has been the product of outstanding workouts that showcase his athletic gifts, but he never would have been in such a situation if not for persistent rumors about his locker room presence. Doubts about his leadership and sportsmanship hung over his on-court talent like a black crowd. Which is strange, because all Vanderbilt fans have ever seen from this athlete is an intense desire to lift his team to new heights.
Baldwin went to bat for his team and his coaching staff multiple times throughout his Vanderbilt career. When Kevin Stallings threatened to kill him on national television, Baldwin had his coach's back before the team could even leave the arena. When the Commodores started out a disappointing 8-7 last season, he made his commitment to the team clear. He never quit on his team, and often stepped up to put a struggling Commodore squad on his back, for better or for worse.
Even though we can cross any locker room concerns off the list, there's still plenty more to break down about the two-year Vandy veteran's game. Here's what NBA teams can expect from him as a pro.
Shooting. Baldwin was the prototype for Kevin Stallings's point guards. He provided a staunch defensive presence in the backcourt, distributed the ball well, and, most importantly, shot the hell out of his three-pointers. He had 10 career games where he drained at least three threes while shooting .500 or better from deep. In all, he made more than 42 percent of his three pointers against NCAA opponents.
But while Baldwin is a stalwart from long range, he's a below-average shooter once he crosses the arc. He shot the same on his two-pointers as he did on threes as a freshman (.439) and shot even worse when he got closer to the rim last season (.437). We'll dig into that more later on.
Passing. Baldwin isn't a true pass-first point guard, but he proved he's more than just a combo guard in his two seasons at Vanderbilt. When he was on the court, nearly one-third of his teammates' baskets came as the direct result of a Baldwin assist. He has the court vision to play at the next level, but the big question about his ability to run the point effectively in the NBA will come down to his ability to get into the paint and create the kind of disorder that leads to easy baskets for his teammates.
Size and defense. Baldwin used his near seven-foot wingspan to deflect passes and his 6'4 frame to prevent opposing guards from dragging him into the paint and posting him up. His presence was a strong deterrent that kept opponents out of the paint. Here he is locking down likely 2016 lottery pick Jamal Murray, courtesy of Bright Side of the Sun.
That size is also a boon on the offensive end as well. Those long arms help give him the shooting release point of a small forward. That makes Baldwin's jumpers extremely difficult to block. His layups? Well...
Finishing. Baldwin is a very good athlete, and he's not afraid to compare himself to Russell Westbrook. But while the two may play similar games from the point, Westbrook's defense-separating athleticism gives him the leverage to compete tough shots at the rim -- shots Baldwin struggled to execute in his two years with the Commodores.
He struggles to turn the corner on his drives and that lack of boost often pushes him into traffic where opposing bigs can alter his shot in the paint. Baldwin is elusive and big enough to keep guards from affecting his offense, but once help defense collapses on him he winds up in trouble. He will occasionally pass his way out of it and create an easy basket on his way out, but he also appears to play with a chip on his shoulder that pressures him to finish his shot once challenged.
That's not to say Baldwin can't or won't improve on this end, but he's going to run into several problems playing against the NBA's elite defenders. He has the shooting and passing to press the reset button on his game and eliminate this penchant for go-nowhere, check-THIS-out drives, but it may take some work to steer him back to his strengths as a pro.
Neither a Strength Nor Weakness, But Still Pretty Cool
Hating Tennessee. I swear Wade has retweeted this Vine at least five times.
I'm an optimist. Wade Baldwin gets snapped up by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 10th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft.