Chad Baker recently committed to SDSU. He was the starting small forward at Duquesne as a freshman. He measures in at 6’7, 190 lbs. Due to the NCAA waiver granted to all players, he is still a freshman in terms of eligibility. He is an old freshman though, checking in at 21 years old.
How his age affects his career remains to be seen. In my opinion he looks skilled enough to go pro at some point. Being older will hurt his stock though, so he may be gone sooner rather than later. If he stays he’ll be in the same year as Butler, Dinwiddie, and Evans in terms of eligibility, so the Aztecs have a solid young core in place. Right now isn’t the time to worry about the future though. Let’s take a look at what he’ll bring this season.
The defensive analytics like Baker. He has positive scores in D-BPR, D-PIPM, Defensive Win Shares, D-BPM, etc. His block percentage of 4.2% is close to what fellow recruit Tahirou Diabate recorded in 2020 (4.4%). His steal percentage of 2.4% is better than what Jordan Schakel recorded last season. On paper he looks like a disruptive defender that will give opposing offenses nightmares.
The truth may not be quite so rosy. Baker can definitely be disruptive, but he also has a tendency to overplay on defense while gambling for steals or blocks, and gives up open looks because of it. In the clip below he aggressively tries to stay in the passing lane and gives up a layup on a back cut.
He also has a tendency to get beaten when on defense. Opposing ball handlers can get by him and get to the rim. In the one full game I was able to watch on YouTube, he got beaten three times in 31 minutes of play. The clip below was in transition, but it still shows the phenomenon. Baker gets beat and doesn’t make much effort to correct the mistake.
The good news is, one of those things is a behavior that should be easy to correct with a full off-season of practices with the coaches. More focus on the defensive end should also help Baker get beaten less, although that’s a problem that is a bit harder to fix.
The other good news is that Baker didn’t seem to get picked on defensively, so it may be the case that it just wasn’t a good game for him in that regard.
Luckily, it doesn’t appear that there will be many dominant wings in the conference next season, so any defensive liabilities Baker may have should be mitigated. Overall, Baker will provide some highlights, but also give up a couple plays. He’ll be a net positive player overall.
Offensively Baker looks like a great player who still has room to get better. His number one asset is his shooting. Baker connected on three point shots at a 41.7% clip as a freshman. He is dangerous as a shooter, and can shoot in multiple situations. Baker ranked 43rd in the nation in spot up situations as a freshman according to Synergy. Jordan Schakel last season ranked 48th.
His shooting can be a bit streaky. Baker had a game where he went 5-5 from behind the arc, another where he went 7-11, but also had a game where he went 0-6, and had five games (out of 15) where he didn’t make a single three point shot. in those games he averaged just four points per game. When the long ball wouldn’t fall he didn’t contribute to the score much.
Luckily, a guy who can shoot the way baker does will warp the defense regardless of whether shots are falling, and his mere presence on the floor should help open up scoring opportunities for others.
Baker can also hit contested shots, shots off the dribble, long 2’s, shots at the rim, etc. The clip below shows Baker hitting a contested 3 in transition. The Aztecs struggled in transition last season, so Baker’s efficiency could really help in that regard next season.
He has a good enough handle to be able to create shots for himself from time to time. He even showed some promise in the pick and roll as a freshman. It was in a small sample size, but the results were promising (74th percentile nationally). Having a full off-season to work on his game will help him be more versatile. I couldn’t find any good pick and roll examples, but the clip below shows a nice cross over dribble to a midrange pull up jumper.
While I expect Baker to get most of his time at the small forward spot, he will likely get some small ball minutes as a power forward. In those situations having a power forward who can shoot and create his own shot on the perimeter will create some serious mismatches.
Baker is a great pickup for the Aztecs. He is a player that will help keep the Aztec’s more experienced the way Coach Dutcher wants, but also has a lot of eligibility left. He will likely step into a role similar to the one Jordan Schakel had last season. He can hit shots, draw defenders out of the paint, and create for himself sometimes. As blasphemous as this may sound, Baker may have a better skill set than Schakel. At least offensively. What he is missing is IQ, especially defensively. Schakel was great at positioning himself within the team’s scheme defensively. Baker isn’t quite there yet, but can get there.
He will likely spend most of his time as a small forward, which will help move Matt Bradley to a more natural shooting guard spot. He also has the size to play the power forward spot when the coaches want more shooting on the court. He checks off the needs of shooting and size listed previously. As is always the case, a lot of what happens will depend on the offseason development, but Aztec fans will fall in love with his outside shot early on.