Washington Wizards: Patrick Baldwin Jr may be set for a sophomore breakout season

Patrick Baldwin Jr of the Golden State Warriors (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Patrick Baldwin Jr of the Golden State Warriors (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

In recent years, we have seen quite a few stars have breakout seasons following their rookie year. Whether it’s due to health, adjusting to the pace of the game, or just getting stronger, there are plenty of players who have made a large year two jump. This year, Patrick Baldwin Jr of the Washington Wizards could have the biggest season of second-year players.

Acquired during the trade between the Washington Wizards and the Golden State Warriors, the 20-year-old forward could be the biggest steal in franchise history if he pans out. He was included as a throw in piece to save money after the infrastructure of the deal based around Jordan Poole and Chris Paul was already agreed upon. This could be a huge mistake by the Warriors.

Last season with the Warriors, Baldwin Jr was often relegated to the garbage time minutes. While it’s near impossible to justify him getting minutes over Jonathan Kuminga or Draymond Green, there were games where one or both of those players picked up DNPs and the rookie still didn’t get playing time.

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In the little playing time he did receive, he seemed to have incredible instincts with where to be and when on offense. However, he isn’t without his weaknesses. For his rookie campaign he averaged 3.9 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 0.4 assists per game in only 7.3 minutes per game across 31 games played. While his traditional field goal percentage wasn’t great, a vast majority of his shot attempts were three-point attempts leading to an effective field goal percentage and true shooting percentage of around 55% each.

A huge aspect of Patrick Baldwin Jr’s season will be breaking barriers set by the Warriors

One of the problems that plagued the young forward has been a lack of aggressiveness on the floor. He seems almost afraid to make a mistake whenever he plays.

While this could be a major red flag, I think it’s an indicator of the issues in Golden State as this is not a unique problem. When James Wiseman was first traded to the Detroit Pistons, he had many of the same issues, too timid, scared to mess up, and not engaged. However, as he was exposed to the coaching system and style of play from the team, he began to come out of his shell.

This tends to happen when players are given inconsistent playing time, add the extra pressure of making any mistake could lead you to being benched for the next month and a half and it becomes a heavy burden. This is exactly why Jonathan Kuminga received a plethora of ‘Did Not Play-Coaches Decision’ games early in the year and was completely removed from the postseason rotation in favor of JaMychal Green.

It is very likely that with more leniency and freedom, Baldwin Jr will start to be more aggressive on offense. This will lead to more opportunities at the rim, therefore more good looks from three and playmaking opportunities, and therefore more engagement on both ends of the floor from the 20-year-old.

Summer League gave an insight to the new Washington Wizards’ improved defense

One of the biggest takeaways from Patrick Baldwin Jr’s performance in this year’s Summer League was his defense. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he seemed far more engaged and reacted much better on that end of the floor. This could be further proof of the previous point of being timid due to fear of making a mistake.

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He blocked shots, poked the ball away, and disrupted passing lanes at a level he never reached last season. He also stayed with his assignment and contested shots well.

He wasn’t the only player who looked far better defensively than we expected. Tristan Vukcevic, Ryan Rollins, and even defensive specialists Bilal Coulibaly and Johnny Davis seemed great on that end of the floor.

If the defensive showcase he displayed in the Summer League translates into his play this season, it will mean that the biggest weakness in Baldwin Jr’s game is gone. This would also mean he can be given heavy minutes without weighing down any aspect of the game plan.

The offense should look more refined for Patrick Baldwin Jr as well

Already a high-level shooter in his rookie season, the only thing really missing from his game on that end was rim pressure. Another part of the game that circles back around to aggression on the basketball court.

Assuming he adds any sort of dribble drive scoring moves to his game this season, he will become a three-level scorer at six-foot-nine. Add in his natural ability to find gaps in perimeter defenses and he would pair extremely well with Tyus Jones or Deni Avdija.

While it won’t be perfect, any sort of improvement on offense would be a great addition should he also be a positive defensive player next season.

While he probably won’t be a year-two All-Star like Luka Doncic or Zion Williamson, Patrick Baldwin Jr has all the tools and opportunities to be one of the biggest breakout players of the season this year. His stats will certainly improve with an increase in minutes. The only question is how much he will improve.

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