Featured Image by Suad Bejtovic Photography
Wade Baldwin IV came to the Texas Legends in a unique situation, but he’s made the most of his opportunity.
In 2016, Baldwin IV turned pro after one season at Vanderbilt and was selected 16th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft by Memphis.
However, after one season with the Grizzlies where he played 33 NBA games in the regular season and three more in the playoffs, Memphis released him last October.
Portland quickly signed him to a two-way contract, which means Baldwin IV could spend a maximum of 45 days in the NBA while playing the rest of the season in the G-League.
But since the Trail Blazers don’t currently have a G-League affiliate, they had to find a spot for Baldwin IV to log steady minutes, which is where the Legends come in.
Before he came, Portland talked to us about what their goals were for him. It aligned well with what we were doing,” Legends head coach Bob MacKinnon Jr. said. “He’s been terrific. He plays hard in practice, he works on his game. He’s trying to develop himself as not only a player, but as a professional for the NBA level.”
And helping develop his players to where they can handle the rigors of the NBA is one of MacKinnon’s most important tasks as the Legends’ boss and one he takes quite seriously.
It’s sometimes taken for granted. These are young guys who are first or second year out of college and we expect them to know how to be a pro right away,” he said. “Guys have to learn that and Wade’s doing a terrific job of learning not only how to play at the next level, but also how to be a pro at the next level.”
In 14 games with the Legends this season, Baldwin IV averaged 18.7 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game.
Those are impressive numbers from the 21-year-old New Jersey native, but there’s something else he’s really enjoyed about playing for the Legends.
It’s definitely a good chemistry with all the guys here. Everybody does the right thing, works hard and is a professional about it, so it makes it easy for me to fit right in with those guys and match that same personality, that same mindset,” Baldwin IV said. “Frisco is close to Dallas, which is a great area to be (in). Dallas is probably a top five favorite city of mine, so to be here is cool.”
Not only has he bonded with his new teammates, but he’s also forged a great relationship with Legends assistant coach Eric Snow, himself a former NBA point guard, the same position Baldwin IV plays.
Snow played in the NBA Finals three times and coached in the college ranks before joining the Legends staff last summer.
Baldwin IV visits Snow and his family each Sunday, experiences which have made him feel more comfortable in his new surroundings and have also helped him rediscover his love for the game.
What they’ve taught me is the mental approach to the game of basketball. I felt at times last year, I didn’t respect the art of the game in terms of preparation, respecting opponents,” Baldwin IV said. “I’m humbled and grateful to play the game of basketball. I took it for granted and being around a guy like him and his wife, they’ve done a tremendous job of shifting my mind to being grateful for playing this game, how much of an honor it is.”
When I leave, I’m probably going to be writing him a letter, getting him a little gift, just thanking him for saving my career and helping my career.”
And Snow, who is in his first season as a Legends assistant coach, has immensely enjoyed getting to know Baldwin IV both on and off the court, and sees an immense upside in him.
His passion, enthusiasm (impresses me),” Snow said. “He can play, very skilled. His reach and his hand size are things that can help him a lot. He can be really impactful on the defensive end and his speed 9is also an asset). I think that his ability to make plays and stay aggressive he would really help himself and obviously really help the team as well.”
Baldwin IV was roundly criticized by Memphis fans for being a first-round bust who was released by the organization after just over a year with the Grizzlies.
But he’s made peace with what happened there and now sees being released by the Grizz last fall as a huge blessing.
I think it was the best thing to happen in my life, being released by them. I fell down a path that I swore not to, and it affected my relationships and my game,” Baldwin IV said. “It was a wake-up call, to be released by them. It changed me as a person.”
In the immediate future, Baldwin IV will leave the Legends and head to Portland, where he will play for the final 45 days of the NBA regular season.
His exact departure date has yet to be determined, but when he does join the Blazers, he resolves to do several things in his NBA return.
My expectation is probably just show my personality in whole. I think I lacked that in Memphis,” Baldwin IV said. “Guys want to be around guys who have good character and guys that work hard. I think a lot of people know from this season that the game is there. All the tangible things that you need to do on the court are there. Now it’s what type of person is he? Continue the hard work ethic that I’ve always had in my career. Those are the two things I’ll show in Portland.”
And after doing some great things on and off the court with the Legends, Baldwin IV now feels confident and comfortable with where his game is currently at, and has no doubt he has plenty to offer the Blazers once he arrives in the Rose City.
Yeah, I think the sky’s the limit for me,” Baldwin IV said. “A lot of people have potential that’s already tapped. Everything with me can get better. I think I’m one of those players in this league where the sky is the limit and you can get so many things out of.”