When Wade Baldwin gets going, there aren’t many defenders who can stop him. Source: Gints Ivuskans/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images
When Wade Baldwin gets going, there aren’t many defenders who can stop him. Source: Gints Ivuskans/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

The EuroLeague star who deserves another shot at the NBA

Basketball OlyBet 21.03.2024

In the Maccabi Tel Aviv backcourt, there’s no longer a two-headed dragon or two alpha males, because when EuroBasket winner Lorenzo Brown hasn’t gotten himself going, Wade Baldwin is in such a powerful rhythm that you’d better hold on to your hats.

Baldwin, who celebrates his 28th birthday on March 29th, has only played two games this season where he hasn’t reached double-digit points. He has had five games where his performance index rating (PIR) has been at least 30, which is more than, for example, Mike James.

Baldwin has hit 42.9% of his three-pointers, although he takes quite a few shots and many of them are anything but easy. On average, he is fouled 5.7 times per game, with only Mathias Lessort being fouled more frequently (6.5).

However, Baldwin is far from being a selfish player, as evidenced by his 5.2 assists per game. In Round 30 against ASVEL Villeurbanne, the stars aligned perfectly for him to have a monster game, scoring a lot of points (30), distributing many assists (10), and drawing many fouls (9).

His PIR of 46, while quite a bit behind EuroLeague record holder Tanoka Beard’s best of 63, marks a new high for this season. Previously, this record was held by Real Madrid’s forward Džanan Musa, who amassed a PIR of 45 against Anadolu Efes Istanbul, though it’s worth noting that this game went into triple overtime.

Baldwin vs ASVEL:

What makes Baldwin’s individually outstanding season even better is that under his leadership, Maccabi will surely make the play-in, and reaching the quarterfinals wouldn’t be a surprise. They have 17 wins and 13 losses, just one win behind Olympiacos, who holds sixth place with four rounds left in the regular season.

Baldwin’s ceiling in Europe is getting closer

Various statistics suggest that Baldwin makes Maccabi better. True, the Israeli powerhouse’s numbers with and without the American aren’t massively different. However, it’s clear that in evenly matched games, where the result is often decided on individual ability, it’s nice to have a player who has averaged 17.7 points this season and is dangerous from absolutely anywhere. When the opportunity arises, Baldwin can even put defenders on the poster!

Baldwin has been earning his bread in Europe since 2019. During these seasons, he has only played in the EuroLeague, representing Olympiacos, Bayern Munich, Baskonia, and Maccabi, with whom he has a contract until the end of June 2025.

According to Israeli media, the guard earns slightly less than 1.4 million euros for the season, which puts him far from being among the best-paid players in the strongest club competition in the Old World. Nevertheless, Baldwin deserves a higher salary, as there aren’t many players in the EuroLeague better than him.

Baldwin also deserves praise for getting better with every European season. Improvement can be seen both on the court and in the numbers, and although the explosive guard hasn’t won anything in the EuroLeague, there’s inevitably a feeling that he doesn’t have much more room to develop over here.

This summer, Baldwin finds himself essentially in the same situation as Aleksandar Vezenkov after last season. He’s a brilliant basketball player, often an unstoppable star in the EuroLeague, and his age is such that his career’s peak has either just begun or is about to arrive. So why not try your luck in the NBA?

Even if there’s no NBA buyout clause in Baldwin’s contract with Maccabi, getting out of the contract is often easy. Perhaps a very expensive formality, but still a formality.

Baldwin fits perfectly in the NBA

If Baldwin’s situation can be compared to Vezenkov’s, then in terms of playing style, the American could be likened to Vasilije Micić. Both are tall guards with plenty of experience who need the ball in their hands to be effective. Moreover, they are good passers, capable of hitting three-pointers, mid-range shots, and effectively driving to the rim.

When he moved to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it was clear that the Serbian would find it very difficult to earn significant playing minutes because OKC’s backcourt rotation was well-stocked with several young talents.

The 30-year-old Micić didn’t get to play much there, but after a trade to the Charlotte Hornets, the player who won two EuroLeague titles with Efes has come into his own. His minutes (26.4 vs. 12.0), points (12.3 vs. 3.3), assists (5.5 vs. 2.5), and many other statistical indicators have all improved.

Micić’s career-high NBA game:

Essentially, all basketball players with NBA experience who have come to Europe or gone from Europe to North America say that it’s much easier to score points in the world’s strongest league than in the Old World. Mainly because the court is bigger, the game is faster, it’s not as physical, and defensive pressure is much lower during the regular season because not every game counts in the NBA.

Considering everything, Baldwin would certainly cope in the NBA. No one is saying he’ll be the next LeBron James, but he could definitely fill the role of a starting guard on a weaker team or a significant role player on a better team.

However, Micić is a great example of how important it is to be in the right place and get the opportunity, but even if the initial choice goes awry, Baldwin is fortunate that time is on his side, as he is more than two years younger than the Serbian.

Baldwin’s first NBA experience

Baldwin, who played two years at Vanderbilt University, was the 17th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. He made his debut for the Memphis Grizzlies, where he collected seven points, six assists, five rebounds, three steals, and three blocks in a four-point victory, being as versatile as a Swiss army knife.

Unfortunately, this remained his only flash of brilliance in the Memphis club. In the end, he represented them in the NBA for only 33 games, was sent to the G-League several times, and after the first year, the club gave up on Baldwin.

Baldwin’s rookie-season highlights:

Baldwin had several problems in Memphis. Firstly, he couldn’t score at all when his three-point shooting was only 13.6% and he could only convert 31.3% of his field goals. Secondly, he turned the ball over too much.

While it’s possible to refine and improve all of this, the third concern was the most difficult to fix. Namely, it was said in Memphis that the guard was a very poor teammate and arrogant.

The year in Memphis was followed by a couple of seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, where Baldwin played even less, and in the end, he had no choice but to come to Europe.

Now, however, the American is more mature and deserves a second chance in the NBA.


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