SAN FRANCISCO – The democratic process by which Warriors coach Steve Kerr makes most of his decisions might be enough slide Patrick Baldwin Jr. into the rotation as a rookie.
“Might,” is the operative word because Baldwin is the least experienced of the five Warriors who fit the wing category.
“I’m really excited about him,” Kerr told reporters after Baldwin delivered 12 points, shooting 4-of-5 from deep, in 17 minutes in the preseason win over the Wizards on Sunday in Japan.
Know this, though: Kerr listens to his staff and to the veterans. Baldwin has used summer workouts, practices and preseason performances to impress both.
“Well, (veteran assistant coach) Ron Adams is a huge fan,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said of Baldwin a couple weeks ago. “Ron’s probably telling everybody. He loves him.”
Stephen Curry, the most influential player of all, has said he likes what he has seen so far. And on Tuesday, seven-year veteran Kevon Looney singled out Baldwin as someone to watch.
“He picks up everything really fast,” Looney said. “That’s something you need to do on this team. He’s a high-IQ kind of player. Steve loves guys like that, so he’ll probably find his way on the court somehow.”
Looney paused briefly, recognizing the other component involved in doling out playing time.
“There’s a lot of talent at that position,” he cautioned. “But the way he shoots it, and his feel for the game, he’s already taking a step in the right direction.”
At 6-foot-10, Baldwin has the height of a power forward, which would put him behind Draymond Green, JaMychal Green and, in a way, Jonathan Kuminga.
Baldwin’s skills, however, are better suited to small forward. Andrew Wiggins is the starter. Klay Thompson can slide over. Moses Moody can, too, in a pinch. Yet that spot is, in the view of many, waiting for Kuminga.
Though it was initially thought Baldwin would spend the majority of his rookie season working on his conditioning -- injuries interrupted his senior season in high and his lone season in college -- with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors. As evaluation continues, he seems to be pushing for NBA minutes.
Kerr made it clear that after the five starters and sixth man Jordan Poole, the remaining minutes will be dictated by performance. They’ll earned, rather than given.
“After the sixth person, it's kind of who takes it,” Myers said. “Is (Baldwin) going to take it? I don't know. But there's opportunity for him if he can grab it.”
Baldwin is making his case, but it must be kept in mind that the final decision on playing time will be made by the head coach. It will take a special rookie to get minutes, particularly after coach conceded he rushed James Wiseman in his rookie season.
But Baldwin, son of a coach, is more advanced than Wiseman. Players can see it. Assistant coaches can see it. So, too, can Kerr.
“Just a really good basketball player,” Kerr said on Sunday. “He understands the game. You can see with his flow, his movements, his shooting, his passing – he made a great pass in transition. He just gets it. He’s got a really good feel.”
Although Looney’s approval might matter, his most revealing line is is this: “Steve loves guys like that.”
That matters most of all.