How does Joey Baker work as a Wolverine?

A lot of unexpected things were bound to happen before Joey Baker made his way to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

First, he had to decide to leave Duke, which seemed incomprehensible after he publicly announced that he would use his “COVID year” to return to Durham for season five. But somewhere between April and May that decision changed and Baker entered the gate. Why he did this, and what prompted this turn, will be the subject of constant speculation until we hear details from the man himself.

Second, a lot of things had to change in Ann Arbor to become a viable destination. Immediately after the season, it seemed likely that five-star freshmen Caleb Hustan and Moussa Diabatti would return to Ann Arbor for sophomore campaigns. Houstan was a predictable lottery pick entering the year but fell off most of the draft boards after a wildly inconsistent year, while Diabatti showed remarkable athletic potential and dynamism but was very raw. These two would have made up the Wolverines’ attackers in the 2022-23 campaign if all had gone according to plan; Instead, they both decided to stick to the NBA draft even though they were expected to be the second-round transfers (although there has been speculation that Houstan received some sort of “guarantee” from a team, given that he never participated in the NBA Combine) .

After the dust settled, Michigan was left with a large hole in the wings. The return of Hunter Dickinson cemented the Wolverines as one of the Big Ten’s pre-season favorites. Dickinson, along with Oscar Chiboy and Armando Bacot, are among the best returning centers, and possibly players, in the country.

The Wolverines have also bagged the coveted transfer deal Jaylen Llewellyn, a former Top 100 recruit who has excelled in three years at Princeton, for point management, and appears poised to hand a bigger role to rookie Terrence Williams II. Williams, a 6-foot-7 forward with intangibles who shot 38.5% of last season, saw a huge rise in minutes along his stretch and arguably played the best game of his career in Michigan’s surprise win over Tennessee. Brag about them again at Sweet 16.

Outside of this center, though, Michigan is filled with question marks.

There is definitely raw talent on the list. Kobe Pukin was a rookie in the fourth grade and top 50 enlisted and likely to get the first crack in the role of the first firing ranger: While Pufkin was used sparingly as a freshman, he showed flashes of potential and Michigan coaches excelled in what happened in the summer. Strength and conditioning can do in his game. Two of my Pufkin teammates, Isaiah Barnes and Will Scheter, are appearing as wingers but were late to KFC last season and likely won’t be called up to provide more than depth this year.

There are more talent in the recruitment category 2022, including coach Joanne Howard Jett’s son. Young recruited by 4* consensus, Young Howard has garnered great reviews at the Summer All-Star Games, including Veteran NBA veteran JR Smith describes Howard as “the most prepared pro man here” at the Allen Iverson Roundball Classic. Greg Glenn is also a 4* recruit, but he stands out more as a strong forward and long-range prospect.

Prior to Becker’s commitment, that left Howard an actual player in the third stage. Now, he’s likely to contend with the fifth-year move for minutes at that spot.

That’s probably part of what drew Baker to Michigan: the opportunity to earn a key role on a team whose core suffices to make it a contender for the conference title. But even if Howard exceeded expectations and demanded a starting point, Michigan lacks any experienced depth in the 2-4 positions, meaning Becker still has plenty of minutes to claim as the sixth man.

Perhaps most important to Baker’s suitability is that his skill Michigan craves: marksmanship. While Dickinson has been the star in Ann Arbor the last two seasons, arguably the biggest difference is between 2021, when Michigan looked ready to run into a Final Four before a late-season injury to senior Isaiah Livers, and 2022, when Michigan entered the NCAA Championship. Before running, my three-point shooting was consistent. The 2022 team shot 32.4% collectively from outside the arc, to achieve the respected 120th place nationwide, but was seriously jeopardized by the heat and cold. At Seton Hall, Arizona, Minnesota, Rutgers, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin losses, the Wolverines fired less than 20% from behind the arc; This, in turn, allowed the opponent to send double and triple teams to Dickinson in the paint.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines have shot about 37.5% from depth in most of their major wins of the season, including over Tennessee in the NCAA Championship, also at Ohio State, home against Michigan State, and home against Purdue. In the last two games, the Wolverines fired 50 percent snaps from depth.

Not surprisingly, these photography performances are associated with Dickinson’s effectiveness in painting. Against Tennessee, Dickinson was 8-13 from the field (including 3-5 from behind the arc alone) for 27 points. Against Michigan State, he was 13-19 off the ground on his way to 33 points. And in Michigan’s biggest win of the season against Purdue, he led the team with 22 points.

Baker gives Michigan the filming presence it needs to open the floor for Dickinson. The Wolverines don’t need to create a shot from their flanks: that will come primarily from Llewellyn backed by Dickinson, an excellent pass off the post. They need someone with the experience to read the attack properly and hit the open shots he gets, which fits Baker perfectly.

As was the case at Duke, though, there are still questions about how Baker will be a good fit for the defense. some Fan sites in Michigan He claims Becker has the ability to protect 2-4, which is likely to meet with giggles from Duke fans who have watched him for the past four years. But perhaps the change in defensive scheme would better suit Becker’s abilities: Joan Howard’s man-to-man is decidedly less aggressive than Coach K, and Howard has also played the playing area for extended periods. With Dickinson as defender in the paint, a potential Becker average defense with the hustle would suffice. Perhaps most importantly, without any obvious competition for the 3 minutes outside of Jet Howard, Baker’s leash is likely to be much longer than it was at Duke’s.

One could rightly argue that Joey Baker never had the opportunity to show what he was fully capable of at Duke given the tremendous talent he competed with. If so, he will have the opportunity to realize that potential in Michigan, in a team he won’t count on as a primary offensive option, but will create plenty of opportunities for open shots. But even if Baker was “just a shooter”, this is a skill that has been a noticeable hole in Wolverine’s roster, and Baker would likely earn himself 15-20 minutes per game from his ability to space the floor on his own. Playing that role on a team that is likely to be highly competitive in the Big Ten, and perhaps at a national level if Dickinson leaps toward stardom, would be very attractive for what would be Baker’s final year in collegiate basketball.