As November nears, 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. Next up is senior Joey Baker. Read the previous previews here: Stanley Borden, Spencer Hubbard, Keenan Worthington, Michael Savarino, Bates Jones, Jaylen Blakes, Theo John and AJ Griffin.
Last year’s statline: 2.9 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 11.5 MPG
Game breakdown: Joey Baker enters what is likely to be his final season with the program and the Blue Devil faithful have watched him grow from an overshadowed recruit to a senior captain. Baker has had some inconsistency in his performance over the years going from 5.0 points per game during the 2019-20 season to 2.9 last year. From his sophomore to junior year, he had a less effective overall offense, a lower shooting percentage and also nearly halved his field goal attempts.
At Countdown to Craziness, Baker was one of his team's leaders during both games—a sign he is ready for captain duties. Baker contributed by putting up two 3-pointers and he made a solid effort overall from the floor. Baker’s potential exceeds his first showing of the year as he just needs to figure out how to fine tune his shots from the perimeter—his most valuable skill. Regardless of the overall ups and downs Baker may have had from season to season so far, he does still have his blazing moments each year. Last season, he digressed to lower minutes from his career high of 12.1 per game the year before. However, Baker still managed to have a career-high of 1.2 rebounds per game. With a decent 3-point stroke—though he has struggled to find it at times—and good driving abilities, he is in the lineup for offensive production but will likely be outplayed by some of the newcomers at his wing position such as AJ Griffin. He has been a fine player, he’s been important to the program and has found places here and there to improve, but his dedicated fans just want a bit more for his senior year.
Role on the team: Although there are two graduate students on the team this season, Baker has been with the Blue Devils the longest of everyone, and is the only member of the roster to play for Duke in the NCAA tournament. So regardless of age or class standing, he is in a strong leadership position with his experience as well as his status as a captain.
With a new wave of elite first-years, the Fayetteville, N.C. native will have to help the younger members of the team adjust to the court and the competitive collegiate setting. He will act as a pillar as a captain, tying the graduate students with the underclassmen. Junior Wendell Moore is another experienced player that is entering his third year into the program and will take on a leadership role with Baker, so if both players can get into a strong momentum from the beginning of the season, they can be very effective together with their veteran status and can prove to be useful with their basketball IQ in game-time decisions.
NBA comparison: Steph Curry. Just kidding, though a writer can dream. Baker’s best NBA comparison is a bit more modest, as we'll go with Atlanta Hawks forward Kevin Huerter. Baker and Huerter share a similar build and Huerter is a versatile player for his team just like Baker. The Hawks' wing, like Baker at his best, can shoot from just about anywhere on the perimeter. The former Maryland star has refined his shot to maintain consistency, which would be crucial for Baker if he wants a shot at the next level.
Projected stats: 3.4 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 15.0 MPG
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