There will be a lot of new faces on Michigan men’s basketball team this season, including two upperclassmen coming from the transfer portal: Jaelin Llewellyn of Princeton and Joey Baker of Duke.
We already looked at advanced stats to project what Llewellyn could look like in Michigan’s offense next season, but Baker is a bit more of an enigma considering his playing time at Duke was much more sporadic.
Baker said in a recent interview he can be much more than a veteran spot-up shooter for the Michigan Wolverines.
“I think my biggest strength would be my three-point shooting, something that I did at Duke a ton,” Baker said. “There’s a lot more to my game that I didn’t show at Duke. I’m hoping to be able to show it this year.
Will he be able to advance his game in Ann Arbor? Only time will tell, but for now here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from him offensively, based on advanced statistics from last season (all stats are courtesy of @CBBAnalytics on Twitter)
Baker is a great shooter, especially on corner threes
Having guys who can consistently knock down corner threes is essential in modern basketball: it’s the easiest pass among three-point options for a driving guard to make and players tend to take the most threes from those spots. And the corner three is exactly where Baker thrives.
Baker shot 47.4% on corner threes last season (87th percentile in all of college basketball), including an extremely efficient 60% on corner threes at home (97th percentile).
With all these stats, it’s important to consider that we’re working with a small sample size. He shot 9-for-19 on corner threes last year and only averaged 11.9 minutes per game, and a lot of those minutes came when Duke was already up by 15 or more.
It’s safe to assume he’ll be taking more corner threes next year at Michigan but if he can shoot anywhere from 36 to 40% from there, it gives Michigan a reliable three-point option and a safety valve if a Hunter Dickinson post-up or a drive from Llewellyn doesn’t result in an easy finish near the rim.
I’d imagine Michigan will run a few sets like the one in the clip below (37-second mark) where the defender guarding Baker will be forced to choose between sticking on him and opening up a driving lane for the ball handler or diving into the paint, providing Baker space to make that defender pay.
Baker needs to get better from mid-range
I’ve seen a lot of Michigan fans online compare Baker to Nik Stauskas or Duncan Robinson, but the biggest difference between them is Baker isn’t nearly as good at creating his own shot from mid-range.
Baker didn’t take a lot of mid-range shots last year, but he didn’t make many of the ones he did take, as he shot 23.5% on mid-range field goals last season. That put him in the 20th percentile in college basketball.
Looking at highlights from high school, Baker seems to have believed in the Daryl Morey mindset from a young age — he really only takes threes or drives to the rim before launching a floater or using a delayed spin move to get to the bucket.
It might be a little late to teach an old dog new tricks, but it might be advantageous for Michigan to try to get him some mid-range shots to get a flow going. Working a pick-and-roll on the wing with a guy like Tarris Reed Jr. could open up those opportunities for him.
He’s at his best spotting up, but he has a great pump fake before attacking
As Ant Wright mentioned in a recent video breaking down Baker’s game, he thrives as a spot-up shooter. He was rated in the 80th percentile nationally on spot-up shots and in the 96th percentile on non-dribble jump shots, proving to be more efficient in that category than Big Ten standouts like Keegan Murray and Alfonso Plummer.
Baker can also keep defenders guessing with a solid pump fake before attacking the rim. He does a great job keeping his head on a swivel to look for fellow shooters and tends to drive to the middle of the floor, where making a dump down pass to a big would be a bit easier.
He is never going to be the first or second option on offense for the Wolverines but if Baker can capitalize on those counter attacks when the defense collapses, it adds another layer to what can be an offense that ranks towards the top of the conference.
He’s better from the left side of the floor than the right
Looking at his shot chart from last season, Baker takes way more shots from the left side of the floor than the right (45 combined left wing and left corner three attempts, compared to 23 combined shots at those spots on the other side of the floor ), and he capitalizes on those attempts more often.
Baker thrives at the left corner (made 54.5% of his 11 attempts from there) and on the left wing (made 50% of his 34 attempts). Those marks rank him in the 90th and 95th percentiles in college basketball, respectively. He’s flat out elite on that side of the floor, compared to only shooting 13.3% on right wing threes and 37.5% on right corner threes.
With 89 games of college basketball under his belt, defenses have to know at this point he prefers the left side of the floor, which means Michigan will have to get creative in how it gets him the ball over there.
I’d like to see Juwan Howard run him off curl and flare screens, similar to what the Wolverines did with Eli Brooks when he was hot last season. Additionally, they could keep him on that side of the floor as a tertiary option off a pick-and-roll, or make sure he runs that side of the floor when the Wolverines are pushing the ball in transition.
Is it reasonable to expect Baker to ever be a lead scoring option for the Wolverines this season? Probably not. But he provides Michigan with much needed three-point shooting and gives a young team a veteran leader (don’t forget: Baker was a captain on a Duke team that made the Final Four last season).
If he can get hot from deep and can use those makes to create off the shot fake, his offensive burst could swing a few games in Michigan’s favor next season.