As the calendar shifts to November, it is becoming apparent that basketball season is on the horizon. That means that it is time for our player previews of every member of Duke men's basketball. Read the previous previews: Mike Buckmire, Michael Savarino, Kennan Worthington, Jaemyn Brakefield, Henry Coleman III, DJ Steward, Jeremy Roach, Mark Williams, Jalen Johnson, Patrick Tapé and Matthew Hurt.
Last year’s statline: 5.0 PPG, 0.9 RPG, 12.1 MPG
Game breakdown: Joey Baker entered Duke his freshman year alongside some iconic names like Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and R.J. Barrett, making it difficult for the Fayetteville, N.C., native to find a way onto the court. Although, Baker was at an advantage training with players who would go on to be top picks in the NBA draft, and had many opportunities to put some decent work into his game. In the past couple of seasons, Baker has been slowly wriggling himself up the roster, but has frankly been an inconsistent and unreliable player.
The 6-foot-6 junior has certainly had his highs and lows, shooting 50 percent from the three-point line in November last season to gaining a career-high 22 points against Wofford and 11 points against Michigan State. Baker has proven that on his better nights, he can be a sharp shooter from the perimeter. On the flip-side, Baker has also gone game after game with zero minutes.
Now that Baker has a couple of seasons of college basketball under his belt, he may be the veteran that fills in some minutes for some of the younger players who are new to the NCAA scene. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski will likely give Baker some opportunities early in the season and it’s up to Baker to seize them and make himself a permanent player in the rotation. On his best nights, Baker can be quite a threat from beyond the arc and the basketball IQ he’s gained from some of his former teammates can make him a valuable player.
Role on the team: Since Baker joined the team two years ago, he has always been expected to be more of a four-year player that would grow into his role on the team. With Tre Jones’ departure, Baker is the final member of his class. Now that he’s a veteran on the team, alongside seniors Jordan Goldwire and Mike Buckmire, Baker’s primary role will be as a leader. Depending on how Goldwire’s game turns out this season, Baker and Goldwire can be important players on the court together as they’ve had a lot of time to get comfortable with each other’s games.
This is Baker’s year to earn himself a more stable spot on the floor, and if he’s able to develop some depth, he can be a beneficial player until he graduates. Duke has received a lot of hate in recent years for solely recruiting one-and-dones, and sometimes it’s hurt the team having almost an unrecognizable roster each year, so Baker’s presence can be the foundation that the team needs.
NBA comparison: Eric Gordon, an Indianapolis, IN., native who plays for the Houston Rockets is the best comparison for Joey Baker. Both players are pure shooters from the perimeter, but need to develop their shots so that they are more consistent and more productive members of their respective teams.
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Projected stats: 5.2 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 14.3 MPG