ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla watched Ron Baker in the recent NBA Draft Combine in Chicago and saw exactly what he expected.
“Same old Ron Baker — one of the toughest guys on the floor,” Fraschilla said. “He has all the intangibles. I think teams are going to be looking for reasons to keep him on the roster.”
We are five weeks from the NBA Draft and when you wonder about Baker and Fred VanVleet, repeat this sentence: “They will get an opportunity to play in the NBA.”
It may or may not start with the draft.
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Fraschilla sees Baker as a player with a good chance to get drafted in the second round. His smarts, work ethic and physical abilities all put him in that place. Baker made 242 of 655 three-pointers in four seasons at WSU — 36.9 percent. To stick in the NBA, he needs that accuracy to move with him to the longer three-point arc (20 feet, 9 inches to the NBA range of 22 feet in the corner to to 23-9 at the top of key).
He was regarded as a good college shooter, but not a great one, and he needs to improve that skill in order to maximize his other assets.
“The biggest thing that will keep him on an NBA roster is that ability to make NBA shots from behind that line,” Fraschilla said. “At the next level, it comes down to, ‘Will the ball go in the basket when we swing it to you?’ He was a 37-percent career shooter in college and he probably needs to be about 37 percent from the NBA line.”
Baker starts a busy week on Tuesday with a workout with Brooklyn, followed by trips to Milwaukee and Denver. VanVleet is in Oakland today to work out for Golden State (along with Kansas’ Brannen Greene and four others). He performs for Houston and Toronto later this week.
While Baker must groove his jumper to the longer distance, he may also benefit from playing with better players. His best shooting season (45.6 percent overall) at WSU came in 2014, when he had Cleanthony Early to take defensive attention. His best three-point shooting season (38.3) came in 2015, when he had Darius Carter and Tekele Cotton to help the offense run. Last season, he slipped to 35 percent.
“He’s not going to be as closely guarded on the pro level,” Fraschilla said.