• Leading up to the Portland Trail Blazers’ season-opener against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers at Moda Center on October 18, HoopBall is profiling the team’s 15 players with guaranteed contracts, in reverse order of price.

    Prior entries: Anfernee SimonsCaleb SwaniganNik StauskasJake LaymanGary Trent, Jr.

    Player: Wade Baldwin IV

    2018-19 salary: $1,544,951

    Position: guard

    Age, experience: 22, third year

    Measureables: 6-foot-4, 202 pounds (6-foot-11 and 1/4 inch wingspan)

    Strengths: speed, quickness, defensive versatility, transition, penetrating, hands

    Weaknesses: jump shot, playing off-ball, free-throw shooting

    Swing factor: 3-point shooting

    Likely role: fourth guard, defensive stopper

    It’s still unclear why the Memphis Grizzlies so hastily gave up on Wade Baldwin, but what’s implicit by now is that long-time general manager Chris Wallace and company have surely come to regret that decision. Baldwin, just a year removed from being taken with the 17th pick in the draft, was waived two days before the Grizzlies’ 2017-18 regular-season opener to make room on the roster for veteran guard Mario Chalmers. The move wasn’t only shocking due to the inherent team-building benefits of retaining players on cheap long-term contracts, but also Memphis’ dire need for injections of youth and dynamism on the perimeter.

    Eleven months later, the Grizzlies’ trash has become the Portland Trail Blazers’ treasure, as Baldwin will be given the chance to play a consistent role for Terry Stotts in 2018-19. Anyone who watched the Vanderbilt product audition for Portland late last season in prolonged action against the Grizzlies, Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz would be unsurprised by that development. Baldwin proved a dogged, disruptive individual defender when he got on the floor for the Blazers, relishing the task of checking the opposition’s top perimeter player with the ardent aggression of a true stopper. One of the most memorable moments throughout all of last season was Baldwin ripping James Harden‘s dribble for a leak-out dunk, stealing the ensuing inbounds pass, then goading the eventual MVP into a shoulder-check that went uncalled.

    Baldwin won’t cause superstars’ frustration to boil over on a nightly basis. At Summer League, in fact, he was far less impactful defensively than he was with Portland, not just in terms of full-court pressure, but overall engagement and commitment. It was so jarring to watch Baldwin fall asleep off the ball or fail to fight through screens precisely because he was such an undeniable bright spot for the Blazers on that end of the floor as last season wound down.

    Fortunately, those relative struggles came under the burden of an offensive load Baldwin won’t be asked to shoulder playing on the same team as Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Serving as Portland’s primary ball handler in Las Vegas, he averaged an event-high 7.4 assists per game by relentlessly pushing the pace in transition and finding open shooters in the half court after creasing the paint. He shot 8-of-16 from beyond the arc, too, encouraging for a guard once billed as a non-shooter despite that relatively low number of attempts. If disaster strikes and Lillard goes down for an extended period, Summer League made it clear the Blazers should feel comfortable with Baldwin assuming some of those leftover ball-handling duties, basically, a realization that could hardly be assumed before July.

    Unfortunately for Baldwin, such confidence guarantees little in the way of a major role in Stotts’ rotation. Lillard, McCollum and Seth Curry will get the lion’s share of minutes at point guard and shooting guard, leaving Baldwin fourth in the pecking order among available ball handlers. His best route to consistent minutes, then, is forcing his way onto the floor next to those guys through individual defense and improved spot-up shooting. Baldwin is unlikely to beat out Evan Turner, and isn’t quite big enough to defend high-scoring threes despite his enviable wingspan, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be relegated to spot minutes. If Baldwin deserves nightly playing time and Stotts is so inclined, Portland could slide Moe Harkless, Jake Layman or even Turner to power forward when Al-Farouq Aminu is off the floor and commit to playing Zach Collins at center exclusively, paving the way for Baldwin to occupy the spot in the rotation vacated by Pat Connaughton.

    There are multiple avenues for Baldwin to be a regular contributor for the Blazers this season, but each of them comes with the caveat of his ability to knock down open jumpers. Baldwin, for instance, could find himself losing minutes to Nik Stauskas should he struggle from deep in training camp. The physical limitations of Lillard, McCollum and Curry make them imminently exploitable defensively, but it’s not like Stotts doesn’t have other options – Turner, Harkless and Aminu – to sick on the opposition’s most dangerous ball handler.

    Still, the best possible version of Portland in 2018-19 includes Baldwin playing a meaningful role off the bench, wreaking havoc on defense and igniting the fast-break attack of a team that ranked dead last in pace a season ago. Would that hope coming to fruition represent a successful outcome for a third-year player drafted just outside the lottery? Probably not, but considering Baldwin was on the fringes of the league this time last year, it would certainly be a significant step in the right direction for the trajectory of his career.

Fantasy News

  • Kyle Kuzma
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kyle Kuzma (sore left ankle) will not take part in the FIBA World Cup as Team USA announces its final roster.

    Kuzma sat out Team USA's final tuneup against Australia on Saturday as Marc Stein reports that he is flying back to Los Angeles to get treatment. We should still expect him to be ready for training and congrats to Mason Plumlee for making the team as many speculated that he would be the final cut.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Walker scored 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting with four rebounds with two assists as USA Basketball had it's 78-game winning streak in tournament and exhibition games snapped on Saturday.

    Walker continues to assert himself as the team's best player but USA losing to Australia was the much bigger story in this one. Harrison Barnes also played well as he chipped in 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting to go with six rebounds. USA will take on Canada on Monday in their last exhibition before taking on the Czech Republic in the first official match of the tournament on September 1.

    Source: USAB.com

  • Derrick White
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Derrick White left Saturday’s game after tripping and hitting his head on the floor.

    White left without help but there is no word yet on whether he is dealing with a concussion. He finished with eight points, hitting 6-of-7 three throws in nine minutes with another update sure to come. The third-year guard put up top-125 per-game value, playing 25.8 minutes in his second season. Even with the return of Dejounte Murray, White should still be worth a roster spot in most standard leagues.

    Source: Jeff Garcia on Twitter

  • Marcus Smart
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Marcus Smart, sidelined for almost three weeks with calf tightness, returned to action on Saturday as USA lost to Australia in their exhibition.

    Smart only played nine minutes in this one but still managed to score 7 points with three assists days after being named one of the team’s co-captains. Coming off an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection, he produced top-100 per game fantasy value as it seems he may have finally fixed his shot after shooting under 40 percent from the field in his first four seasons. He also produced a career-high in both steals and triples with 1.8 and 1.6 respectively as his career seems to be on the up and up.

    Source: USAB.com

  • Patty Mills
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Patty Mills went off in the fourth quarter and finished with 30 points as Australia beat USA 98-94.

    Although it was only an exhibition, it was still a huge moment for Mills and the Australian team in front of a huge crowd as they handed the US team it's first loss since 2006. Mills was serenaded with MVP chants as Joe Ingles also played well with 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting with four rebounds and seven assists while Andrew Bogut came off the bench for 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists in 20 minutes, shooting 7-of-8 from the field.

    Source: USAB.com

  • Kyle Kuzma
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kyle Kuzma is out for Team USA's tuneup up game vs. Australia with a sore left ankle.

    Kuzma is being held out of this one for precautionary reasons. There's clearly no need for USA Basketball to risk him further injuring the sore ankle. This does not sound like a serious injury and should not affect his fantasy ADP on draft day.

    Source: USA Basketball on Twitter

  • Dwight Howard
    C, Memphis Grizzlies

    Dwight Howard has agreed with the Grizzlies on a buyout, and will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers.

    The Lakers are giving Howard an opportunity to be fantasy relevant. When given minutes, Dwight can produce double-doubles with the best of them, but he has been changing teams for years now. He will be worth a gamble at the end of your draft if camp with the Lakers goes well, but this is a non-guaranteed deal, and he only played nine games last season.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Marcus Derrickson
    PF, Atlanta Hawks

    The Hawks signed Marcus Derrickson to an Exhibit 10 contract on Friday.

    It looks like Derrickson will be a G-League option for the Hawks, so there's nothing to see here. At one point he was competing for the last roster spot on the team. We don't need to keep of track of every computer-generated player.

    Source: Chris Vivlamore on Twitter

  • Marreese Speights
    C, Free Agent

    Marreese Speights will work out for the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype.

    Speights spent last year playing in China and will attempt his NBA comeback with the Lakers. who are in desperate need of an additional center. He is among three centers the Lakers are looking into, the others being Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah. Of those three, Speights unquestionably has the best floor spacing ability, which would be his strongest bet to eke out those other two for the job.

    Source: Alex Kennedy on Twitter

  • Trevor Booker
    PF, International

    Trevor Booker has worked out for the Nuggets and has workouts planned with the Bucks and Clippers, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype.

    Booker was out of the NBA in 2018-19, spending the season in China after he didn't get any offers in free agency. He did return to the US to undergo a procedure on his foot but is apparently fully recovered. The last time we saw Booker he split 68 games between the Nets, Sixers and Pacers in 2017-18. If he does make a successful comeback he'll have no fantasy relevance.

    Source: Alex Kennedy on Twitter