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2016 NBA Draft: Breaking Down Pro Future of Vanderbilt's Wade Baldwin IV

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMay 28, 2016

DAYTON, OH - MARCH 15:  Wade Baldwin IV #4 of the Vanderbilt Commodores handles the ball against Rauno Nurger #20 of the Wichita State Shockers in the second half of their game during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at UD Arena on March 15, 2016 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Wade Baldwin IV converted freshman flashes into sophomore production and NBA draft buzz.

A former high school teammate of Karl-Anthony Towns, Baldwin wasn't heavily recruited but still managed to build an NBA case for himself in two years, eventually starring at Vanderbilt.

Despite the Commodores' disappointing record and finish, their floor general established himself as one of the country's most intriguing breakout prospects. He improved in a number of areas and now finds himself looking to crack June's NBA lottery.

Relevant Stats

Wade Baldwin IV 2015-16 Numbers
PPGAPGRPGSPGFG%3PT%ORtgUsage
14.15.24.01.2.427.406112.725.3
Sports-Reference.com

Baldwin raised his per-40-minute scoring average to 18.6 from 12.9, and he shot at least 40 percent from downtown for the second straight year.

His assist rate (6.9 per 40 minutes) was similar to last season's (6.1), and he didn't show much progress inside the arc, where he shot 43.7 percent. However, he converted 43.4 percent of his two-pointers a season ago.

The only other notable stat was Baldwin's turnover percentage, which was over 18 percent for the second year in a row.

Strengths

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - FEBRUARY 27:  Wade Baldwin IV #4 of the Vanderbilt Commodores plays against the Kentucky Wildcats at Memorial Gym on February 27, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt defeated Kentucky 74-62.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty I
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Baldwin's sales pitch to NBA teams starts with his physical profile. At 6'4", 201.8 pounds, he possesses ideal size and strength for a ball-handler. He has an enormous 6'11 ¼" wingspan, the length of many power forwards.

He's also an above-average athlete for the position. Baldwin takes long strides and has enough bounce to throw down dunks off drives and fast-break opportunities.

He finished with the second-fastest lane-agility time at the NBA Draft Combine, an accomplishment that highlights lateral quickness and defensive potential. Between his foot speed, long arms and bulk, Baldwin isn't an easy man to pass or dribble around. He will be capable of guarding both backcourt positions.

In the half court, scouts have to be encouraged by his shooting numbers, even though his mechanics are slightly off. He hit 40.6 percent from three as a sophomore and 43.9 percent as a freshman. Baldwin also made 80 percent of his 300 career free-throw attempts.

He took 7.7 of them per 40 minutes in 2015-16—the most of any point guard on the first-round radar. With timely hesitation and some explosiveness off momentum, Baldwin puts pressure on the defense and rim.

Though his assist numbers won't blow anyone away, he can make all the right reads and passes off ball screens and penetration. Baldwin still needs plenty of work, but he flashed enough potential as a facilitator to suggest improvement will come with reps.

Weaknesses

Baldwin's handle isn't advanced. He uses change of speed and line drives to attack but doesn't dribble low to the ground or lose defenders with crossovers or other specialty moves. He's also struggled to finish at the rim, where he shot just 50.4 percent and a scary 39.3 percent in the half court, per Hoop-Math.com.

Baldwin doesn't impress as a mid-range scorer, either, having made 35.9 percent of his two-point jumpers, according to Hoop-Math.com. His pull-up, floater and layup games each need to improve.

Decision-making has been another issue. He occasionally will drive into traffic, get stripped or force the action. He coughed the ball up 3.6 times per 40 minutes. The fact he was the lead guard for an underachiever doesn't help his case either.

Pro Comparisons

TORONTO, ON - MAY 01:  George Hill #3 of the Indiana Pacers dribbles the ball as Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors defends in the first half of Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

George Hill

Like Hill, Baldwin is a defensive-minded point guard. Though they can hit the 20-point mark, scoring isn't their forte.

Hill also isn't known for flashy playmaking. These are ball-handlers who can move the rock and find open teammates but are valued for their defense, attacking and shot-making.

Cory Joseph

Joseph is a floor comparison for Baldwin, whose limited scoring ability could keep him in a backup role. Still, he adds value with defense, shooting and steady overall effort.

If Baldwin fails to make significant progress offensively over the next few years, we'll be talking about a serviceable reserve.

Best-Case Scenario

He has the chance to be one of the more physically imposing, two-way NBA point guards.

Who's to say he can't develop a stop-and-pop game the way Russell Westbrook did? On paper, Baldwin has some big-time upside, which may have gone hidden for must of the year playing in one of the slower offenses in the country, per KenPom.com.

The Hill comparison is more appropriate, both in terms of style and value. A realistic best-case scenario envisions Baldwin emerging as a mid-tier NBA starter.

Worst-Case Scenario

Between his physical tools and track record as a shooter, Baldwin's chances of sticking are high. He'll at least settle into the league as a tough defender and capable shooter off the bench.

Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

Prediction

Baldwin is poised to rise up boards during pre-draft workouts. General managers who never traveled to Vanderbilt are bound to come away impressed with his NBA body.

I predict some team will take him in the lottery, whether it's a point guard-needy franchise or one that already has its starter.

The NBA's more uptempo game and open floor will benefit Baldwin, whom I anticipate developing into the second-best player at his position (behind Providence's Kris Dunn) from the 2016 draft.