Every week during the college basketball season, and every other week during the offseason former Michigan Basketball standout Tim McCormick joins TMI’s Sam Webb for a podcast called ‘The Michigan Basketball Insider.’ Each show offers a deep dive into the X’s & O’s and statistical analysis from Michigan’s games, commentary on college basketball in the Big Ten and beyond, and interviews with subjects from Tim’s vast array of contacts.
McCormick spent 10 seasons playing in the NBA after being the no. 12 pick in the 1984 draft. Since completing his pro career he has worked as a consultant with NBA players for the last two decades teaching strategies to improve performance and achieve greatness. Additionally, he runs the NBA Players Association’s Top 100 Basketball Camp for the nation’s best high school basketball prospects. Tim also provides color analysis as a broadcaster for ESPN’s college basketball coverage and Fox Sports Detroit’s Detroit Pistons coverage.
In this week’s episode Tim and Sam break down the commitment of Duke transfer Joey Baker and how he’ll fit in Michigan’s rotation next year. Attention then turns to the possible late addition of international target Youssef Khayat before profiling top 2023 center target Papa Kante. The duo also predicts next year’s starting five, breakout player, and the top pick in the 2023 NBA draft.
In the excerpt below, Sam and Tim talk reasonable expectations for Baker and how his contribution will likely compare to Caleb Houstan’s.
Tim McCormick: “First of all, I love the fact that Jett wanted him. Like… why would you bring in somebody that can kind of play the same position as you? But Jett is that guy. He loves to compete. Joey Baker was at the Top 100 camp … I think it was in 2017. I think he’s a really good player (and an) outstanding pickup on a lot of different levels. I think that the number one thing I remember about him is he just doesn’t miss open shots. He really has amazing confidence, he expects to make everything, (and has) a quick release. The reason that’s so important is that I can see him spotted up on the weak side, Hunter is going to be working in the low post, and just (Baker’s) presence out there … you can’t leave him. He’s going to create space for Hunter. I think Hunter is going to learn to find him. Those guys are going to coexist very well. And at 6-6 he reminds me a little bit of Luke Kennard. I think Luke had better ball skills … a little bit quicker, more of a playmaker. But Joey Baker shoots like that. And when you think about Caleb Houstan, Caleb shot what? 38%? Which is very respectable. I think that number is a little bit misleading because so many of his big games came against some of the lesser competition teams. I want a guy that can go into Assembly Hall, or the Breslin … a tough game on Big Monday or Super Tuesday and knock down shots. And Joey Baker played a Duke. He played against great competition every single day in practice. And I get the sense that as an elite competitor, he got buried at Duke. They’ve got so many good players. I think what’s going to happen is he’s going to come in here with a little attitude and say, ‘I need to bump my minutes up instead of 12 per game, I want to play 20 or 22.’ I think he can be a really good player. Alone. I’m very happy about that.
Sam Webb: “Let’s talk about the floor with Joey Baker. If he can come in and give you at least what Caleb gave you last year … and this is not to disparage, or diminish, or denigrate Caleb in any way, shape, or form … but if he can give them that then they haven’t lost any ground. And I think that baseline is reasonable to expect. You’re talking about a guy who was a 38% shooter from three, I think he shot over 40% last year. He’s just had a limited sample space. Between getting buried and fighting through injuries, it was just a recipe for him to not flourish there. If he can at least give you Caleb… like I said… you aren’t taking a step back. But I think it’s also reasonable to expect that he’s gonna give you sea (shooting consistency than Houstan) for all the reasons that you talked about. The level of competition that he faced consistently at Duke and that pressure cooker that he was in… the competition that he saw in practice let alone games … and a change of scenery. Sometimes for guys like that a change of scenery is everything. And no one is expecting him to be THE guy … I’m just expecting him to be AND guy. Think about how many good looks he should get from three with Hunter Dickinson patrolling the middle. ”
Tim McCormick: “Yeah, he’s gonna get lost out there and find himself wide open for threes. And when you think about coming from the ACC… that’s as high level as you can get. And we saw Chaundee Brown come in and after playing in the ACC, he certainly shot the ball better than anybody expected. The other thing about Joey Baker is that he’s a captain on a Final Four team, he’s hungry to prove himself, he is a leader, and he’s a fun guy. And I think that Juwan Howard is going to like having a few older guys in his locker room. Remember, it was hard because last year’s team was so darn young. Captains and veterans are not afraid to do some coaching. We’ve heard the best lead teams are player-led teams, and Joey Baker is going to help in that area a lot. ”
Sam Webb: “Yeah, I think it’s a really good pickup. Now again, I’m not expecting a world beater, but I am expecting a shooting upgrade from what they got from Caleb. You pointed out a very important factor. (Caleb) shot well against a lot of lower level teams, and a lot of lower level teams at home. The home / road splits were dramatically different for him. So again, I think you can expect for that to be a tick or two better with Joey Baker. Michigan is betting on him being healthy. I think they probably checked that out pretty thoroughly. Between that, his experience, and the change of scenery, I’m just expecting for them to have a better shooting quotient there. ”
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