Last year’s statline: 0.8 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 4.5 MPG
Game Breakdown: Joey Baker came to Durham last season alongside elite recruits Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and R.J. Barrett, so it was expected that the Fayetteville, N.C., native wouldn’t see much—if any—playing time during his first year. Late into the season, however, Coach K put Baker onto the floor several times while Williamson was out with an injury. In the four games he played last season, Baker totaled only 18 minutes and three points. This season will be different, though, as he will have the chance to step up and take a bigger role on the roster.
Despite the limited playing time, Baker was able to spend the year developing his game by practicing with the talents of his NBA bound former teammates. He was ranked as the No. 13 player in the class of 2019 before reclassifying and becoming a member of the 2018-19 Blue Devil squad, so increased minutes should provide Baker an opportunity to show off the range of skills that initially peaked interest in college recruits. The Trinity Christian School alum will be a good floor spacer this year, as he’s shown he can effectively shoot from beyond the arc. He also stands at 6-foot-7, making him slightly taller than his other wing counterparts, size he can use to his advantage.
Role on the Team: Although he didn’t get much of a role on the team last year, Baker is more of a four-year player who will grow to become a leader in his time at Duke. He already has one year under his belt and, along with fellow sophomore Tre Jones, will be good men for the newbies to look to for guidance. Baker and Jones will also be important pieces on the court together, since they will already be comfortable with each other’s games.
Even at Countdown to Craziness last week, Baker was unable to stand out compared to the new class of freshmen. He will have to put up some stronger stats in the first few weeks of the season to earn himself a consistent spot on the floor. Baker's development will be really beneficial in the long run for the team and for Baker himself, with Duke receiving constant criticism for recruiting too many one-and-dones in recent years. Thus, developing consistent depth on the court will be important.
NBA Comparison: In his eight years in the NBA, small forward Chandler Parsons—who was recently traded to the Atlanta Hawks—has had two seasons where he’s shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc, once during his time with the Memphis Grizzlies and another back when he played for the Dallas Mavericks. Baker, like Parsons, has a sweet shooting touch from deep, though it's a skill he must continually work on if he wants to be a productive member of this Blue Devil team. Furthermore, both Baker and Parsons—who's listed at 6-foot-10—have a unique size advantage against many of the opponents that guard them.
Projected Stats: 4.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 12.1 MPG
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