By John Fanta
FOX Sports college basketball writer
Patrick Baldwin Jr. entered that NBA draft as one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the class, expected to be picked somewhere in their 20s by a team likely to take on a project.
These types of prospects, in most cases, really need the right organizational aptitude to make their mark in The Association. Baldwin couldn’t ask for a better place to land as he heads towards the world champion.
The Golden State Warriors picked 19-year-old Baldwin with their 28th draft pick, and why not? Player development is a big reason the organization has won four of the last eight NBA titles.
Look no further than Jordan Poole, the 28th pick of the 2019 draft. He became a key weapon for the Warriors on their quest to win this year’s title after turning up early in his career with the Santa Cruz Warriors, the G-League partner of the organization, had developed.
There’s a great deal of doubt about Baldwin, and an even greater degree of mystery about him as he turns pro. Out of Hamilton High School in Wisconsin, the versatile 6-foot-9 forward caused quite a stir after his junior year, during which he averaged 24.3 points and 10.8 boards, and was named Gatorade State Player of the Year. However, his senior season was ruined by an injury. After a 43-point performance in the opening game, Baldwin suffered a dislocated left ankle in his second game and missed the rest of the year.
Despite the injury, Baldwin was recruited by college basketball’s heavyweights. He gave up playing for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke to play for his father Patrick Baldwin Sr. in Milwaukee. But Baldwin Jr. appeared in just 11 games, averaging 12.1 points and 5.8 rebounds before his ankle injury got worse again and he was shut down in February.
Lakers, Warriors, Magic rating after the NBA draft
Joy Taylor hands out certificates to the Lakers, Warriors, Heat and other teams after the 2022 NBA Draft.
In the space of four months, Baldwin went from a potential lottery winner heading into college basketball season to a sideline first-round contender.
So why choose Baldwin?
If he’s out, he could be a matchup nightmare in the NBA. He has a wingspan of 7ft 2 and a reach of 9ft 2 when standing. That length combined with a pure shot form and the ability to put the ball comfortably on the ground gives it such a unique skill that fits the modern NBA. And while he was inefficient in college, shooting just 27% from beyond the arc, Baldwin played on a 10-22 team, which resulted in his father being fired. He will be surrounded by better pro-level pieces.
So what do the Warriors need to find out with Baldwin? His athleticism is a cause for concern. At the NBA Combine, he had the second worst time in lane agility drill. Combine that with a mind-blowing 26.5-inch maximum vertical jump and there are real concerns about who Baldwin can guard at a professional level.
The Golden State development team needs to work on their footwork, stance and speed to prevent Baldwin from being a liability at this end of the floor. However, as the son of a basketball coach, Baldwin has a flair and an IQ for the game.
The Warriors know Baldwin has question marks, but they embrace the idea of untapped potential.
“He’s going to have to put it together. He doesn’t have it yet,” said Warriors general manager Bob Myers. “He was a top 10 recruit out of high school. Now he’s in the NBA so he needs to update himself. We’ve invested a lot in our player development and believe we can take talent and hopefully nurture it. We think he’s one of those guys.”
It’s likely Baldwin will spend the upcoming season in Santa Cruz with the G-League team building up and racking up consistent reps in what the Warriors hope will be his first healthy season in three years. His summer league status will be determined by the Golden State coaching staff this week. Baldwin was unconstrained in the preliminary draft process and said last week his ankle is at about 95 percent.
Perhaps the best way to summarize an outlook for Baldwin came from a scout who provided an anonymous opinion ahead of the draft in our boom-or-bust story.
Also see: NBA Draft 2022: Five Intriguing Boom-or-Bust Prospects
“Baldwin is a project, but it’s very interesting to think about the idea of him showing up in the NBA because he fits into a team’s pick-and-pop role. Watching him at his best, I can’t help but be intrigued because he has the skills of a lottery pick. The health concerns are real, and his combine wasn’t encouraging.
“He’s a risk, but the reward could be great.”
It’s a risk the world champion can take and that’s why it suits Baldwin so well, who is trying to weather the odds of the last two years with one of the league’s best organizations.
John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of roles, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to commentating on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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