The New Orleans Pelicans have two second round picks (please, keep them both!) so lets cast a rather wide net on prospects for that pick. Today, we'll have a look at former Wichita State guard, Ron Baker, who burst onto the scene as a freshman. He helped that team shock the world by reaching the 2013 Final Four and has gone on to dazzle since.
Year after year, Baker has proven to be a viable scoring guard and along with Fred Van Vleet, pushed the Shockers to new heights by knocking off various big-name basketball programs along the way. Now, he's a prospect who might be worth a draft pick. Let's talk about his potential fit for the New Orleans Pelicans, as one of their upcoming second-round draft picks.
Vitals: 23 years old, 6'3.25" w/o shoes, 6'4.5" w/ shoes, 6'9.75" wingspan, 35.5 max vert
Stats: 14.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 55.7 TS%, 35.0% 3 PT, 8.7 TRB%, 21.7 AST%
Games Watched - Vs. Tulsa, Vs. Charleston, vs. Kansas and vs. Indiana (2015 NCAA Tournament)
Offense - Baker is not afraid to launch three-point shots as evidenced by 655 career attempts. However, he isn't an elite shooter, hitting just 36 percent of them for his collegiate career. For a player that's going to need to make his money as a knockdown shooter, it would be better if Baker was closer to 40-41 percent. As an aside, he does possess a very interesting jump shot; I would call it Mike Milleresque.
After watching the above clip, could Baker do some playmaking and find teammates? Although I think it's possible he could be a nice secondary passer, he's rather slow in the pick and roll -- not a ton of shake there. He shows a good basketball I.Q. in finding the open man and making the extra pass, though. His assist rate of 21.7 percent against a 10.7 turnover rate as a senior confirm the notion.
At the rim, Baker has finished with efficiency over the last three seasons: 62 percent as a senior and above that figure the previous two years. He showed an ability to finish some against bigger competition, but there isn't a big sample size in finishes over elite length.
Defense - There are several parts worth mentioning when discussing Baker's defensive ability. The first is what we have on paper. Baker had at least 1.0 steals per game and 2.5 steals (per 100 possessions) in three of his four full seasons at Wichita State. He'll never be confused for the likes of Maurice Cheeks or Don Buse, but he did have a presence in the passing lanes in the college game.
The second is that Wichita State was considered a top 20 defense every season Baker attended school. Does that mean something? I'm not sure, but I do wonder if his defensive play played a valuable part. On the flip side, playing in the Missouri Valley Conference probably tended to reflect better on the statistics.
Based on the eye test, I think Baker is a fine defender. He's a bit physical when opponents drive on him -- those will lead to fouls at the next level -- and he can get a bit handsy, but I like his effort. He uses his near 6'10" wingspan to contest jumpers and deny the ball. He's also good at switching, but did get turned around every once in awhile.
The constant negative trait that was apparent: Baker is a step slow on defense. His on-ball defense was fine when the opponent was figuring out his next move, but when someone was attacking, leaving no time for Baker to set, he seemed to get left in the dust. That said, there were a couple occasions where his wingspan saved him at bit, still allowing him to contest a shot.
Fit with New Orleans - A team can never have too many perimeter defenders on their rosters. The Pelicans have several unproven wings in Bryce Dejean-Jones and James Ennis in tow, as well as Quincy Pondexter returning from knee injuries that kept him out the entire 2015-16 season. Thus, it's not crazy for New Orleans to consider another two wing players in the draft, with Baker potentially being an option in round two. He can shoot, has the necessary wingspan to overcome some athleticism issues and I think he might be able to create a little bit at the next level.
Keep in mind that the Pelicans also like older prospects. Baker is a seasoned 23 years old (I shouldn't be making this joke, as I am also 23, but hey), so maybe that will intrigue them some.
Conclusion - Throughout time spent watching video, I kept finding myself saying that Baker is a good at X, good at Y, but never great at any one thing. He was a good shooter in college, but never a great one statistically. He was a good defender, but never a great one, or never able to show it against NBA-level prospects on a nightly basis.
Then, throw in he isn't gifted athletically which could lead to struggles at the next level off the dribble, potentially finishing well at the rim and defending elite athletes. There's just very little shake in his game and it'll probably be the thing that prevents him from sticking.
However, he does have a good basketball I.Q., NBA-level size and could space the floor. Most of his field goal attempts were jumpers at the college level so expect more of the same at the pro level. He could be a nice pick at the 40th overall position that joins New Orleans' glut of unproven wings with a chance to stick following a solid Summer League performance.