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Duke men's basketball 2019-20 player review: Joey Baker

Baker shot 39.4 percent from beyond the arc this past season.
Baker shot 39.4 percent from beyond the arc this past season.

Joey Baker

Season breakdown: The only way to describe Joey Baker’s season is as a rollercoaster. The Fayetteville, N.C., native played zero minutes in Duke’s opening contest against Kansas, raising questions of whether or not head coach Mike Kryzwzeski had plans for him to be the pivotal role player that most expected. But after his consistent play for the entire month of November, including a 50 percent mark from beyond the arc, Baker found himself garnering significant minutes on a nightly basis. The momentum continued, with his 11-point performance at Michigan State and career-high 22 points against Wofford seemingly marking the beginning of his stardom and the end of the Blue Devils’ perimeter shooting woes.

Baker’s perimeter efficiency slowly tailed off, however, and with that came the dwindling of his minutes. Just as he seemingly played himself out of the rotation, the sophomore forward would go on to have a solid night or make a clutch basket, keeping himself in the mix for the time being. His inconsistency finally won out, and in the 10 games leading up to Duke’s final contest against North Carolina, he averaged a mere 2.1 points and eight minutes per game.

His season ended just as it started: zero minutes of playing time in a significant Duke victory, only this time it came against the Tar Heels. It is unclear how Baker would have been used in the ACC and NCAA tournaments, respectively, but we do know that depending on the day, you could get a completely different Joey Baker.

Results relative to expectations: Coming into the season, no one was expecting Baker to fill Cam Reddish’s shoes or become the next J.J. Reddick. The hopes were simple: be a consistent threat from outside. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, his blazing shot became streaky and he proved unable to create offense outside of his shooting, making it difficult to keep him on the court in games where he did not have the hot hand. 

The tools are there for the former four star recruit to be a feared sharpshooter who is capable of making an impact on a daily basis. Baker should only see his role grow in the future with the transfer of Alex O’Connell and Tre Jones declaring for the NBA draft. Whether he is ready or not, the script will be flipped for Baker next year, as he will be a veteran on the team and looked to as a leader. 

Stay tuned to the Blue Zone for our continuing player reviews. Previous players previewed include Alex O'Connell.

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