- Year: Freshman
- Height: 6-foot-7
- Position: Forward
- This year's stat line: 0.8 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 0 APG, 18 minutes played
- The Blue Zone's projected stat line: 2.8 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 0.4 APG
Season breakdown: Hindsight is 20/20, but head coach Mike Krzyzewski's decision to burn Baker's redshirt 27 games into the season Feb. 23 at Syracuse raised eyebrows at the time and only looked much worse as the last month of the season progressed. It was a surprising act of desperation in the Blue Devils' first full game with Zion Williamson sidelined by a knee sprain, three days after the rest of the team fell flat at home against North Carolina. Baker played five minutes that night against the Orange, fouling three times and missing the only shot he took, and Krzyzewski said after the game that Baker had practiced well and would continue to get opportunities.
That didn't happen. The Fayetteville, N.C., native never saw meaningful playing time again, aside from a one-minute stretch in a loss at Virginia Tech when he air-balled a shot and was quickly sent back to the bench. Baker saw action in just two games in March, scoring for the first and only time on a garbage-time triple that rattled home in the first round of the NCAA tournament against No. 16 seed North Dakota State.
Although Baker played well during Duke's Canada tour in August and showed glimpses of effectiveness in the Blue Devils' exhibition season, he looked more timid on the court and was not assertive in the limited chances he got during the regular season after four months on the bench.
Results relative to expectations: The preseason expectation was that Baker would either redshirt or serve as a significant role player throughout the season. Instead, Duke got the worst of both worlds. The presumption was that he would redshirt until late in February, when all that waiting went to waste, and he didn't even play much at all after he was activated.
Baker could become a good rotation piece for the Blue Devils, but he might not be good enough to leave school early for the NBA. If that's the case, Duke could enter the 2022-23 campaign deeply regretting using the young forward for 18 unproductive minutes this season instead of having a fifth year with him on the roster as a valuable veteran leader.
The Blue Zone began our player reviews with Justin Robinson. Check back later for the rest.
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