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Wade Baldwin Finding Niche in Memphis

Wade Baldwin and Mike Conley talk to Basketball Insiders about the rookie’s incredible potential.

Moke Hamilton

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If things played out a bit differently, Wade Baldwin may not have landed with the Memphis Grizzlies. But he sure is happy he did.

“During the process, I thought I was going to Sacramento,” Baldwin told Basketball Insiders. “Coach [Dave] Joerger really liked me. And then the night before [the draft], I really thought I was going to Chicago.”

Of course, the Bulls would have made a lot of sense. The day before the draft, Derrick Rose was traded to the New York Knicks and, suddenly, Chicago seemed to have a vacancy in the backcourt.

The Bulls instead selected Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine, and Baldwin immediately began hoping to fall to the Memphis Grizzlies.

“Come pick 15 or so, I got the idea I was going to Memphis and I was happy as hell,” Baldwin said.

Citing the group of veterans he’s found himself surrounded by, Baldwin believes he will be better for it in the long run.

“To be honest, I feel bad for the league, because in four years, five years from now, I could be the most polished young guy out,” Baldwin said after paying compliments to Mike Conley, Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

Calm and collected and with a ranginess not usually seen in NBA guards, any doubt that existed as to how Baldwin would translate into an NBA player was quickly erased after the draft. Baldwin sees the game well and already has developed an ability to play the game at different speeds. He is deceptively quick and has a high IQ and motor.

That was apparent to Conley from the beginning.

“I’m impressed with him,” Conley told Basketball Insiders. “He’s got all the tools, he wants to get better, so he’s always asking questions. He’s always trying to learn and I like that.”

This past summer, Conley made headlines for signing the richest contract in NBA history—five years, $153 million. Before that, though, he was regarded by many as the most underrated point guard in the league. An astute floor general, Conley takes care of the basketball, orchestrates his team’s offense, shoots well and plays plus-defense.

In other words, he is an excellent model for someone like Baldwin, his new understudy.

“He has the same kind of drive I did coming into the league,” Conley said of Baldwin. “I’m just fortunate enough to be able to have a guy like that behind me that I know I can kind of groom in the right direction so that when he’s ready, he’ll be ready to go.”

Evidenced by head coach David Fizdale’s utilization of Baldwin—he joins Vince Carter and Zach Randolph as key members of the team’s bench rotation—he may already be ready.

“Their resume speaks for themselves,” Baldwin said. “Playing with such intelligent guys that are worth every penny they make, it just makes it easier.”

Had things played out differently, Baldwin may have found himself on teams with lower expectations. Some rookies would welcome a leisurely introduction into the league, but on a team whose championship window isn’t getting any wider, the Grizzlies still have a sense or urgency. This group wants to win now.

The prevailing sentiment as it relates to Coach Fizdale’s team is that with a lack of youth, they may be looking up at quite a few teams out West once the playoffs roll around. With Baldwin and three other rookies around, though, the Grizzlies have other ideas.

“I feel like myself, Andrew [Harrison], Deyonta [Davis], Troy [Williams], we can impact the game,” Baldwin said. “Andrew’s a great defender. I play on both sides of the ball, push the pace. Deyonta’s a fantastic shot blocker. And anytime these guys are in need for a sub or they’re tired, we’re ready to go.”

With an aging core augmented by a few youngsters who seem ready to contribute, the Grizzlies are hoping to make a seventh-straight playoff appearance.

“They definitely balance us out in the sense of the lack of athleticism we have with our older guys,” Conley said with a chuckle. “They’re guys that really get after it defensively and they still got a long way to go, they have a lot to learn, but with some guys down right now in Chandler [Parsons], Tony [Allen] and Brandan [Wright], we’re going to rely on those young guys so they’re going to learn a lot early.”

For Baldwin, it appears that the crash course is paying dividends.

Had he ended up in Sacramento or Chicago, things certainly would have been different. But in Memphis, a bright future lies ahead for Wade Baldwin.

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Legacy

Looking For A Few Great Voices!

From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

Basketball Insiders

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From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

We are considering adding new voices for the 2020-21 NBA Season, and what we are looking for is very specific.

Here are the criteria:
– A body of professional work that reflects an understanding of the NBA and basketball.
– Must live within 30 minutes of an NBA team.
– Must be willing to write two to three times per week on various topics as assigned.
– Must write in AP style and meet assigned deadlines.
– Be willing to appear in Podcasts and Video projects as needed and scheduled.
– Have a strong understanding of social media and its role in audience development.
– Be willing to work in a demanding virtual team environment.

Some things to know and consider:
– We are not hiring full-time people. If you are seeking a full-time gig, this is not that.
– This will be a low or non-compensation role initially. We need to understand your value and fit.
– We have a long track record of creating opportunities for those that excel in our program.
– This will be a lengthy interview and evaluation process. We take this very seriously, so should you.
– If you are not committed to being great, this is not the right situation for you.

If you are interested, please follow these specific instructions, Drop us an e-mail with:

Your Name:

The NBA Market You Live Near:

And Why We Should Consider You:

We do not need your resume, but a few links to work you have done under the above information would be helpful.

Please send all of this to: openings2021@basketballinsiders.com

 

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Headlines

#17 – Aleksej Pokusevski – Oklahoma City Thunder

David Yapkowitz

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With the 17th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Aleksej Pokusevski from Serbia. The Thunder completed a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire the pick.

Pokusevski is a long term project, but one that has has an intriguing skillset. A 7-footer with good speed and quickness, Pokusevski plays like a wing and can pass like a guard. But, to truly thrive at the next level, Pokusevski will need to put on some serious weight.

Again, he’s a project. But Pokusevski’s ceiling is sky-high. And, with a rebuild ahead of them, the Thunder have more than enough time to work with him and ensure he reaches it.

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Mock Drafts

2020 NBA Mock Draft – The Final 60-Pick Mock

What a long and winding road the 20201 NBA Draft has been. While this draft cycle has seen its ups and down, the moment of truth if finally upon us.

Steve Kyler

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What a long and winding road the 20201 NBA Draft has been. While this draft cycle has seen its ups and down, the moment of truth if finally upon us.

Here is a final look at the 2020 Draft, and how it may play out in this final 60-pick Mock Draft of the 20202 NBA Draft process:

 

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