- Year: Freshman
- Height: 6-foot-7
- Position: Forward
- Last year’s statline: N/A
Game Breakdown: Baker initially committed to Duke in October of 2017 as a member of the class of 2019, but reclassified in May to join this year’s squad. The Blue Devils’ lone member from the state of North Carolina was ranked as the No. 13 player in his class (according to ESPN) at the time of his verbal commitment, and now enters Durham as the No. 41 prospect in the class of 2018.
There is no doubt that Baker is overshadowed by his five-star freshman counterparts. But the Trinity Christian School product also brings a key attribute that some of his classmates lack: a sweet shooting touch from beyond the arc. Baker was the first player to hit a three in Friday’s Countdown to Craziness scrimmage, and his ability to hit from downtown will be essential in keeping defenses honest and opening up the paint for his slashing teammates.
But Baker isn’t just a shooter. The Fayetteville, N.C. native also has a soft touch inside and the athleticism to finish above the rim. Not only that, but he has also made rebounding an important focus of his, giving him the ability to slide in at either forward spot if needed.
Role on the Team: Although it was initially rumored that Duke would redshirt Baker for his freshman year, it appears as if Coach K and company will instead use him as a valuable piece off the bench in their quest for a sixth national championship. That is likely the way to go, as the Blue Devils could use as much shooting depth as possible to make up for their lack of outside threats in the starting five.
With sophomore Alex O’Connell and junior Jack White serving as Duke’s first two wings off the bench for now, Baker won’t play heavy minutes, especially at the start of the season. But if the just-turned 18-year-old becomes one of the team’s more reliable shooters from beyond the arc, he could very well see his playing time increase as the season moves along. And unlike the Blue Devils’ other freshmen, Baker very well could be a four-year guy. So don’t be surprised if he becomes one of the team’s top players and outspoken leaders a few years down the road.
NBA Comparison: Baker’s biggest strength is his ability to be a mismatch against any defender that guards him. At 6-foot-7 and 200 pounds, Baker can easily blow past slower big men and shoot over smaller, quicker forwards. The Wizards’ Otto Porter shares many of those same characteristics.
Now in his sixth year with Washington, Porter has slowly transformed into one of the NBA’s premier three-point marksmen (he placed fourth in the league with a 44 percent three-point percentage last season) while also using his size (6-foot-8 and 198 pounds) to back down smaller defenders. Of course, Baker and Porter also share the same weaknesses, as neither has proven themselves as reliable one-on-one scorers against defenders that share both their height and mobility.
Projected Stats: 2.8 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.4 APG
Stay tuned to the Blue Zone for our continuing player previews with freshman Jordan Goldwire tomorrow. Previous players previewed include Justin Robinson.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.