How does Joey Baker work as Wolverine?

Quite a lot of surprising issues needed to occur earlier than Joey Baker arrived in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

First, he needed to determine to depart Duke, which appeared unfathomable after he publicly introduced that he would use his “COVID yr” to return to Durham for a fifth season. However someday between April and Might that decision-making modified and Baker entered the portal. Why he did it, and what brought on that U-turn, would be the topic of ongoing hypothesis till we hear the main points from the person himself.

Second, quite a bit needed to change in Ann Arbor for it to change into a viable vacation spot. Instantly after the season, it appeared possible that five-star freshmen Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate would return to Ann Arbor for sophomore campaigns. Houstan was a projected lottery decide coming into the yr however fell off most draft boards after a extremely inconsistent yr, whereas Diabate confirmed exceptional potential and athleticism however was extraordinarily uncooked. These two would have been the Wolverines’ beginning forwards for the 2022-23 marketing campaign if all went in line with plan; as an alternative, each determined to decide to the NBA draft regardless of being projected as second-round picks (though there may be hypothesis that Houstan acquired some type of “assure” from a crew, provided that he didn’t take part within the NBA Mix in any respect). ).

After the mud settled, Michigan was left with an enormous gap within the wings. The return of Hunter Dickinson cemented the Wolverines as one of many Massive Ten preseason favorites; Dickinson, together with Oscar Tschiebwe and Armando Bacot, is among the many greatest returning facilities, and maybe gamers, within the nation.

The Wolverines additionally landed the coveted commerce of Jaelin Llewellyn, a former High 100 recruit who excelled in three years at Princeton, to run the purpose, and seems poised to provide rising teen Terrance Williams II a much bigger function. Williams, a 6-foot-7 combo ahead with sticky intangibles who shot 38.5% from deep final season, noticed an enormous enhance in minutes down the stretch and performed arguably the very best recreation of his profession within the upset victory of Michigan over Tennessee who flaunted them once more within the Candy 16.

Outdoors of that core, nonetheless, Michigan is filled with query marks.

There’s actually uncooked expertise on the roster. Rising sophomore Kobe Bufkin was a consensus 4*, High 50 recruit prone to get the primary shot on the beginning capturing guard function: Whereas Bufkin was used sparingly as a freshman, he confirmed flashes of potential and Michigan coaches are enthusiastic about what a summer season of power and conditioning can do for his or her recreation. Two of Bufkin’s classmates, Isaiah Barnes and Will Tschetter, mission as small forwards however have been redshirts final season, and possibly will not be referred to as as much as present way more than depth this yr.

There’s extra expertise within the recruiting class of 2022, together with Jett, the son of coach Juwan Howard. A consensus 4* recruit, younger Howard acquired rave evaluations in the summertime all-star video games, together with NBA veteran JR Smith calls Howard “essentially the most ready man right here” on the Allen Iverson Roundball Traditional. Gregg Glenn can also be a 4-star decide, however initiatives extra as an influence ahead and longer-term prospect.

Earlier than Baker’s dedication, that left Howard because the de facto starter at 3. Now, he’ll possible be competing with the fifth-year switch for minutes there.

That is most likely a part of what drew Baker to Michigan: the prospect to earn a beginning job on a crew whose core is sufficient to make it a convention title contender. However even when Howard exceeds expectations and calls for the beginning job, Michigan lacks skilled depth at 2-4, that means Baker nonetheless has loads of minutes to assert because the sixth man.

Maybe most necessary to Baker’s match, his skill is one thing Michigan covets: capturing. Whereas Dickinson has been the star in Ann Arbor the previous two seasons, that is arguably the largest distinction between 2021, when Michigan appeared poised for a Ultimate 4 run earlier than a season-ending harm to senior Isaiah Livers. , and 2022, when Michigan snuck into the NCAA Event. subject earlier than making a run, was constant three-point capturing. The 2022 crew shot a collective 32.4% from past the arc, for a good 120 within the nation, however was topic to wild spells of cold and warm. In losses to Seton Corridor, Arizona, Minnesota, Rutgers, Illinois, Michigan State and Wisconsin, the Wolverines shot below 20% from past the arc; in flip, that allowed the opponent to ship double and triple groups to Dickinson within the paint.

The Wolverines, in the meantime, shot about 37.5% from deep for many of their largest wins of the season, together with over Tennessee within the NCAA Event, and in addition at Ohio State, at house towards Michigan State and at house towards Purdue. Within the final two video games, the Wolverines shot greater than 50 p.c from deep.

Not surprisingly, these capturing performances correlate with Dickinson’s effectiveness within the paint. In opposition to Tennessee, Dickinson went 8-13 from the sector (together with 3-5 from past the arc on his personal) for 27 factors. In opposition to Michigan State, he went 13-19 from the ground en path to 33 factors. And in probably Michigan’s largest win of the season towards Purdue, he led the crew with 22 factors.

Baker offers Michigan the capturing presence it must open up the ground for Dickinson. The Wolverines do not want shot creation from their wings: That can come primarily from Llewellyn with the assist of Dickinson, who is a superb submit passer. They want somebody who has the expertise to learn the offense appropriately and hit the open pictures he will get, which is an ideal match for Baker’s recreation.

Nevertheless, as was the case at Duke, questions stay about how Baker will slot in defensively. Some Michigan Fan Websites claims Baker has the power to protect 2-4, which is able to possible draw laughter from Duke followers who’ve watched him for the previous 4 years. However maybe a change within the defensive scheme fits Baker’s expertise higher: Juwan Howard’s man-to-man is decidedly much less aggressive than Coach Ok’s, and Howard has additionally performed within the zone for longer stretches. With Dickinson being an ideal defender within the paint, there’s an opportunity Baker’s common protection with hustle will suffice. Maybe most significantly, with no clear competitors for minutes on Jett Howard’s 3 outs, Baker’s leash is prone to be considerably longer than he ever was at Duke.

One may rightly argue that Joey Baker by no means acquired an opportunity to completely show what he was able to at Duke given the immense expertise with which he competed. If that’s the case, he’ll have an opportunity to meet that potential in Michigan, on a crew that will not depend on him as a major offensive possibility however will create loads of open capturing alternatives. However even when Baker is “only a marksman,” that is a talent that was a notable gap on this Wolverine crew’s roster, and Baker may possible earn 15-20 minutes a recreation because of his skill to unfold the ball broad. courtroom alone. Filling that function on a crew that’s prone to be extremely aggressive within the Massive Ten, and probably nationally if Dickinson makes a leap to stardom, was most likely very interesting for what can be Baker’s closing yr of faculty basketball.

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