At the outset, I have to say I’ve never quite gotten the theory of what’s supposed to make Patrick Baldwin Jr. a good — or even passable — NBA player.
He was a highly-ranked prospect in high school and even forecasted as a lottery pick. Several prep talent evaluators described him as an “ideal” stretch four at the NBA level. (Which is kinda silly when I think about it a moment because the NBA has been adventuring into stretch fives and playmaking fours the past several seasons.)
Then he suffered a serious ankle injury two games into his senior year in high school, missed the rest of the season, and then went to play for his father at Milwaukee.
And here’s where the problems start for me. The only prospect I evaluated who rated lower in my stat-based draft analysis tool was Yannick Nzosa. Baldwin shot atrociously (41.8% on twos and 26.6% on threes), rebounded kinda-sorta okay, and did not much playmaking or defending. All that for a terrible team against weak competition.
At the combine, his scores on agility and jumping tests were poor — well below average for an NBA prospect. On the bright side, his standing reach measurement was about the same as a center prospect.
I’ve heard “it was the ankle” used to explain away the performance in college and at the combine. Which would be even more worrisome about his future because his college season began about 11 months after he was injured in high school, and 18 months before the combine. Just how serious was this injury?
Underscoring how little attention NBA teams pay to me, the Golden State Warriors used the 28th overall pick in the first round to pick him. And, his performance in scant minutes with Golden State, and in the G-League was similarly unimpressive.
Bright side: he shot better for the Warriors (38.1% on 84 attempts) than he did at Milwaukee and in the G League (35.6% on 87 attempts). On the dark cloud side: kinda everything else. He got some rebounds, but there’s no playmaking, no creation, and not much defense. He’s a shooting specialist with an unexceptional shot at three different levels over the past two seasons.
He’s also an exception to the aphorism recited by NBA scouts, coaches, and executives about three-point shooting in the G League: “Everyone shoots 37%.”
All that said, I offer the reminder that he’s just 21 years old, he seems to have potential, and if he works hard on his game and body, he could become an NBA-level rotation player.
So, let’s talk doppelgängers. My Statistical Doppelgänger Machine factors age and an array of pace-neutral statistical categories like minutes played, usage, preferred shot types, offensive and defensive rebounding, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, fouls, scoring, and an overall measure of the player’s production relative to era.
A note: Baldwin is pretty unique in the historical record. His top comp has a similarity score that would be top 15-20 for most players. After that, the scores are top 45-50 and further down the list.
- Chris Clemons, 2019-20, Houston Rockets — Clemons is a full foot shorter than Baldwin. Baldwin did get more rebounds, but Clemons produced more blocks per possession than the 6-9 Baldwin did last season for Golden State. Clemons, by the way, appeared in 33 games that season with the Rockets and hasn’t been in an NBA game since.
- Malik Beasley, 2016-17, Denver Nuggets — After a rough start, Beasley grew into a decent player. He slipped above average for the 2020-21 season in Minnesota, but his performance dipped the past two seasons.
- Matt Thomas, 2020-21, Utah Jazz & Toronto Raptors — Thomas had a decent half season as a 25-year old rookie in Toronto. This was the season after, and he was below replacement level. He got one more try with Chicago the following season before exiting the NBA.
- Austin Daye, 2013-14, San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors — Daye wasn’t bad his first couple seasons. Well, more precisely, his first couple seasons weren’t bad for a first couple seasons. Year two (2010-11) was the best of his career, and he was still well below average. The comp season was a down even for him. He somehow got NBA checks for six seasons, possibly because he was the 15th overall pick in the 2009 draft, and his father was former Bullets first round selection Darren Daye.
- Jarell Eddie, 2015-16, Washington Wizards — This was Eddie’s first NBA season, and also his best — a shade above replacement level. He got a few games over the next two seasons with Phoenix, Boston and Chicago, and then was out the league.
- Elijah Hughes, 2020-21, Utah Jazz — A second round pick in 2020, Hughes was overmatched in the NBA. This was his rookie season. Year two was split between Utah and Portland. He didn’t have an NBA appearance last season.
- Jordan Hamilton, 2011-12, Denver Nuggets — This is a comp who kinda underscores how different Baldwin is. Both guys got scrub minutes as rookies, and they shot the ball at a similar level. Hamilton got after it on the boards, where Baldwin...doesn’t really. Even so, Hamilton was out of the NBA after a smattering of games over five seasons.
- Steve Novak, 2007-08, Houston Rockets — Similarities here: playing time and lack of dimension. The difference: Novak’s shots went in — career 43.0% from three, and 87.7% on his rare trips to the free throw line. Another difference: Novak was a stretch four at a time when that was rare, and specialists could have significant value. As the game has evolved to two-way players, complex defensive schemes, matchup hunting, and five-out sets, this player archetype has diminished in value. Also worth note: while Novak played 11 years, he had just three that rated average or better in my analysis.
- Jeremy Lamb, 2012-13, Oklahoma City Thunder — Lamb’s outcome might be Washington’s wildest dream for Baldwin. The 12th overall pick in 2012, Lamb played very little and poorly when he did. But he improved each of the next six seasons and peaked at age 26 in 2018-19 at a bit above average. He was decent for a couple more seasons when he could stay on the court (plagued by injuries). His NBA career appears to be finished. He didn’t play last season (which would have been his age 30 season) and doesn’t have an NBA gig for this season. He has been included in a couple BIG trades, including James Harden to the Rockets, and the deal that sent Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento, and Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana.
- Henry Ellenson, 2017-18, Detroit Pistons — The 18th overall pick in 2016, Ellenson appeared in 83 forgettable games spread between four teams and five seasons. His second season was okay, if we squint just right.
Next up: A three-for-one doppelgänger article featuring Mike Muscala, Anthony Gill, and Xavier Cooks.