Whether it's the NFL, the NHL, NBA, or MLB, there's always one or two players who do enough during their tenures in college to warrant a look from owners, GMs and coaches, but really state their cases during pro workouts.
Baldwin continues to vault up mock draft boards due in part to his combine performance. His scrappy play as a defender has intrigued teams all the way up into the lottery portion of the draft.
As my colleague Tom Stephenson wrote about Kentucky center Skai Labissiere, freshmen phenoms' intrigue with the draft usually usurp any good sense when it comes to improving their game. This is primarily the gripe with college basketball's eligibility rules. Baldwin, who averaged just over 28 minutes a game his freshman season, felt it was important enough to return to Vanderbilt for one more go-around. In several statistical categories, the approach seemed to work: His time increased to over 30 minutes per game and his points per game average increased from 9.4 to 14.1.
While several of these statistical categories showed a slight regression from freshman to sophomore year, possibly the most impressive was his total number of blocks. The 2014-15 season saw Baldwin block a total of four shots. Not too terrible for a rook. However, another year in former Vandy coach Kevin Stallings' system led Baldwin to eleven total blocks.
An increase of that nature is why several lottery teams have given Baldwin a look. What seems to be impressing these teams is his height to length differential. He's just under 6-foot-3, yet his wingspan stretches to an outrageous 6-foot-11. This is what makes GMs drool.
Have you seen Kawhi Leonard's hands? This is what we're talking about, here.
Hyperbole aside, most players of Baldwin's age show more potential than they necessarily do a Day 1 starter. Baldwin is all potential. His knocks so far have been vocal leadership, which according to CBS Sports' latest mock draft is something a team like the Utah Jazz do not need right away. Also, his overall ball skills in the face of defenders will be something his coaches will certainly need him to work on as his rookie season progresses.
What's most impressive about Baldwin is his own acknowledgement of his flaws as a player. He has stated on several occasions that he knows that he has to be a better vocal leader and if actions can speak louder than words, maybe he will.
There seems to be some discrepancy about which position Baldwin will play at the next level--that he's not polished enough to play point in the NBA. Based on his small, but aggressive nature, shooting guard or small forward may be his primary slot in the lineup.
In the end, this should not matter, because whether Baldwin is called in or outside of the lottery picks, his tenacity and eye for the ball will make some team's bench that much deeper.He's the runaway rocket ship of this year's draft