All eyes were on the Golden State Warriors youngsters during the team’s two-game exhibition series with the Washington Wizards in Japan this week. Specifically, former lottery picks James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody.
For his part, Wiseman gave fans and pundits alike plenty to talk about with his 20-point effort in the preseason opener, and all three had their moments during the trip. On Saturday, though, it was another fledgling baller — rookie wing Patrick Baldwin Jr. — who served up one heck of a parting gift in the second exhibition bout.
After not seeing the court at all during the first half of the game — which the Dubs ultimately won 104-95 after a dominant fourth quarter — Baldwin played 17 minutes in half No. 2, scoring 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting and adding six boards, a steal and a block.
In doing so, the 19-year-old raised an important set of eyebrows.
Coach Kerr Has Been Blown Away by Baldwin
Of course, this is just one preseason game we’re talking about, and Baldwin having a big night doesn’t mean he’s suddenly on the fast track to a spot in Steve Kerr’s rotation. Clearly, though, the Warriors coach liked what he saw from his first-round pick.
“He was terrific — just a really good basketball player,” Kerr said of Baldwin after the game. “He understands the game. You can see it with his flow, his movements, his shooting, his passing. He made a great pass in transition. He just gets it, he’s got really good feel.”
While that’s all well and good, talent was never the issue with Baldwin. The bigger piece of the pie here may be the fact that he has gotten over the ankle issue that limited him to 11 appearances during his lone year at Milwaukee.
“This is a guy who hardly played in college because of the injury. But a really highly-rated recruit coming out of high school, and you can see why. Just great size, great feel, great shooting touch — really excited about him.”
Baldwin’s Injuries Played a Role in His Draft-Night Slip
Coming out of Hamilton High School in Wisconsin, Baldwin was a consensus five-star recruit, who had offers from the likes of Duke and Georgetown before he opted to play for his dad at Milwaukee. He slipped to No. 28 on draft night, though, after struggling to stay on the floor during his injury-plagued freshman campaign.
Baldwin averaged 12.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest during his brief collegiate run. However, the 6-foot-9 forward never found the stroke despite his smooth mechanics. Rather, he converted just 34.4% of his field-goal attempts overall and 26.6% of his triples.
He looks to have put all that behind him now, though, as his shots are going down through two exhibition bouts and his lateral movement has been much improved, too. If that continues to be the case, some kind of bench role may not be totally out of the question.
At the least, one West exec believes that he’ll get playing time as the season unfolds.
“They will play Baldwin for a few games in December or whatever, let him get comfortable on an NBA court and see what he can do, give him some confidence, then pull back,” the exec told Heavy.com‘s Sean Deveney last month. “You invent an ankle injury for Draymond, let him get some rest, let Baldwin play a few games and it works out for everyone.”