Patrick Baldwin Jr. brings familiar, appreciated mentality to Warriors

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Baldwin Jr. brings familiar, appreciated chip, edge to Dubs originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SAN FRANCISCO – The Warriors on Thursday added to what might be the longest line of youngsters bringing a quiet rage into the NBA. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Jordan Poole now have company.

Meet Patrick Baldwin Jr., a 6-foot-9 forward whose first steps in the league – like those of Steph, Klay, Draymond and JP – will be into a thicket of doubters.

In Baldwin’s case, the skepticism is easily justified.

Baldwin left Hamilton High School as a five-star talent recruited by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski but opted to play of his father at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he had a distinctly miserable freshman season. He was coping with a serious ankle injury, which led some to question his toughness, but insists he played whenever he was able.

“There’s never a point where if I feel like I’m healthy that I feel like I should sit out,” Baldwin told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I know that’s contrary to popular belief with some people. If I’m healthy, I’m playing, but at some points I was pushing through it. But if there was a sliver of a chance I could play for my team and compete, I’m going out there to play.”

On a team that finished 10-22, resulting in the firing of Patrick Baldwin Sr. after four seasons as head coach, the younger Baldwin was limited to 11 games, averaging 12.1 points and 5.8 rebounds. His inefficiency, shooting 34.4 percent from the field and 26.6 percent from deep, raised eyebrows.

Baldwin, 19, nonetheless declared for the NBA draft. He went to the Chicago pre-draft combine, where he tested terribly on speed, agility and leaping. His 23.5-inch standing vertical and 26.5 maximum vertical were among the worst recorded over the last decade.

“I’m a better athlete than I showed that day,” Baldwin told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I’m a firm believer in that. I know I’ve got to come out here and really show that’s not an issue. That’s all you can do. You can’t sit and talk about it. You’ve got to do it.”

The athleticism component, along with his relatively thin frame, is why Curry faced doubts coming out of Davidson College. His shooting beyond question, but Steph entered the NBA knowing he had to prove he possessed the physical ability to hold up. That’s why he lasted until the No. 7 overall pick. He was the third point guard, following Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn, selected in the 2009 draft.

The doubts related to Klay coming out of Washington State in 2011 were about dimension. Scouts liked his size and loved his shooting but downgraded him on athleticism and defense. One scouting service compared him to Marco Belinelli, drafted by the Warriors in the first round in 2007. Klay went No. 11 overall, one pick after Jimmer Fredette.

Draymond lasted until the second round in 2012, No. 35 overall, because scouts didn’t believe he was an NBA player. Too small to be a power forward, too slow to be a wing, couldn’t shoot well enough to be a scorer. He presented a quandary insofar as there was no clear vision for how he would contribute. Meanwhile, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson were top-five picks.

When the Warriors took Jordan Poole No. 28 overall in 2019, a draft analyst from CBS Sports declared he was “the worst pick in the draft,” an “inexplicable” choice by the Warriors.

The Warriors maintained belief in all four – never wavering even as Poole struggled through his rookie season – and the faith has been highly rewarded.

One of the reasons the Warriors were so patient with JP was his indomitable work ethic. He practiced with his teammates, practiced by himself, practiced in the mornings, in the afternoons and during the nights – sometimes all three in one day.

Which brings us back to Baldwin. He is, like his four new teammates, from a family steeped in basketball. His love of the game is pure, as is his commitment.

“I’ve been raised in the gym,” Baldwin said. “I was born in the gym. I’ve been in the gym my whole life. So, there’s no reason to think that I’m not going to love being in the gym when I’m here. Being in the gym, that’s the easy part.”

What differentiates Baldwin from his new teammates is that he finished high school without a legion of doubters. He was a top-five national recruit with his choice of college powerhouses. There was high demand because he was sensational.

RELATED: Baldwin Jr. updates injury, summer league status

But now, one year later, those statistics last season in Milwaukee can’t be ignored. And those results at the combine are factual.

“Overall, we managed to get through the storm as best we could,” he said of challenges faced over the past year. “And now I’m ready to get after it this summer and really show what I’m about.”

There’s the chip. The edge. The Warriors know of it, have plenty of experience with it and actually welcome it. It has been good to them in the past, and now here’s another bringing the same mentality.

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