With point guard Mike Conley possibly departing from Memphis in free agency this offseason, the Grizzlies entered the NBA Draft with a first round pick (17th overall). The Chicago Bulls traded Derrick Rose the day prior and with their 14th overall pick, many expected them to select Wade Baldwin IV to fill the point guard vacancy.
Jaylen Brown and Kris Dunn were taken earlier in the first round, leaving the Vanderbilt product Baldwin as the best available point guard. When the Bulls selected Denzel Valentine with their pick, Baldwin – still in the green room – was awaiting news on his future. Then, with the 17th overall pick in the NBA Draft, the Grizzlies drafted the 20-year-old New Jersey native.
“It's awesome, back in the state of Tennessee where I chose to go to college, and I'm back, and Memphis is a great city,” Baldwin said in his opening statement after learning of the pick. “I've been there before and couldn't be happier.”
In 33 games with Vanderbilt last season, Baldwin averaged 14.1 points, 5.2 assists, and shot 42.7 percent from the floor. With his 6-foot-4, 195-pound frame, Baldwin has the wingspan of a 6-foot-11 power forward with keen on-court instincts.
When NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the Grizzlies’ pick, Baldwin became the highest pick from Vanderbilt since the Chicago Bulls selected Will Perdue with the 11th choice in 1988.
However, despite his arsenal of talent, Baldwin still needs to improve his ball-handling and inside game to reach his potential. By his own account, being on the same team with veterans like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will speed that process up. Baldwin also gave a quick statement in regards to what can be expected of him.
“Just a loyal guy, an honest person and somebody that oozes with positivity. I'm playing with guys that are awesome, fantastic players,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin briefly spoke to GiveMeSport the day before the draft, answering questions with a smile and silent confidence before entering the professional world of the NBA.
GMS: A lot of scouting reports do say that you play with an edge and get a little emotional on the court, how do you think you would have to channel that in a better way in the NBA?
Wade Baldwin IV: “I think I just have to see, experience how it is and watch veterans guys and learn from them. It’s all a learning process.”
GMS: Have you gotten advice from any veterans on how to handle yourself on the big stage?
Wade Baldwin IV: “Just be yourself, a lot of people don’t ask, I just kinda know how to be. I was raised well, so I know what I’m doing.”
GMS: What skills – or message – do you offer to a team so that you could be thrust into a starting lineup and have success right away?
Wade Baldwin IV: “I answered this earlier but I don’t know until I am in that experience. When I get picked by a team, there’s defined roles, there’s superstar on that team. Just see how it goes down with the coach, I gotta wait and see how things play out.”
GMS: Do you have a preferred role in mind? Maybe going back to something from your college days [at Vanderbilt]?
Wade Baldwin IV: “I’m so versatile that I think I can do anything that anybody needs me to do. That’s like the coolest, most unique aspect about me. I’m not one-size of a player, I can do a lot of things.”