This is perhaps the hardest position preview to write, not because I lack to words, but because I have too many. That’s also the problem that Scott Drew and his staff will have managing the wing rotation this season. Baylor is outrageously deep and talented in these off guard/small forward positions. How the depth chart and minutes fall out as the games go on will be perhaps the most fascinating and impactful part of the season.
6’ 9”, 225 lbs
Projected role: Starting power forward
Bridges was 4th on the team in minutes last season and has the most minutes of any returning player by a mile (927 minutes for Bridges compared to 501 for Langston Love). His experience in Baylor’s culture and system will be a major factor, especially in the early part of the season. Last year, Bridges was off to a terribly slow start from outside before finding his shot during conference play. The perimeter talent was enough to carry the offense until he got right. This season, though, the tests will come early and the team will be looking to him to be a leader and a major contributor.
It’s his two-way chops that make him an exceptional college player and a potential first round NBA Draft prospect. His shooting last season (32.4% 3PT) undersells his shooting ability, particularly from the right corner. And even when he doesn’t get the ball for a catch-and-shoot three, his ability to crash the glass for a huge offensive rebound will be the difference in more than a few close games this season. On the other end, his defense will be a linchpin. He averaged 1 block and nearly 1 steal per game, a recognized standard to measure defensive impact. And it seems he’s been working on his chase down his summer.
While Bridges has not been a creator thus far in his career, he is a tremendous scoring and defensive wing that every coach wants on his roster.
He was second on the team last season in plus/minus, per cbbanalytics.com. He’ll be near the top of the list again this year.
6’ 4”, 190 lb
Projected role: Starting shooting guard
Nunn is a killer from the outside whose sole purpose in life is to smother opposing ball handlers. He knocked down a smooth 40% from deep while also averaging 1.5 steals for the 15th ranked defense by efficiency, per kenpom.com. Nunn has the potential to go off on any given night from deep and will be one of the prime beneficiaries from the creativity of RayJ Dennis and Miro Little.
What Baylor fans will perhaps appreciate most is the tenacity he brings on the defensive end after lacking a true guard defender last season. Nunn has said he wants to model his game after Baylor great Davion Mitchell, and at 6’ 4”, the junior guard has good size at his position. He managed a low foul rate last season as VCU’s primary defender, a good sign that he knows how to guard with good position and get steals without reaching in.
Nunn projects as a perfect fit between Dennis and an Uber-talented freshman we’ll talk about now.
6’ 5”, 195 lbs
Projected role: Starting small forward/third guard
Walter is just another five-star freshman for the Bears who is the preseason Freshman of the Year (ho-hum), McDonald’s All-American, and Jerry West Award candidate.
Walter comes to Waco with the reputation of being a capable and talented wing defender who can take over a game with his shooting ability.
Please forgive me for showing you clips of him knocking down threes.
Oh, and here’s Drew complementing Walter’s work ethic and competitiveness.
There will be more than a few nights where Walter drops 20+ points by knocking down inside and outside the arc. His Geico National Championship at Link Academy came partly as a result of his tough shotmaking ability. His length and athleticism gives him the ability to rise up over his defender or blow past on a rim attack.
If Walter is able to activate his potential, Baylor has a shot to challenge for the Big 12 this season.
6’ 5”, 210 lbs
Projected role: backup small forward/third guard
I’m not going to lie to you all. Langston Love is probably my favorite player on the team this season and someone I hope has a true break-out year. Not only is he easy to root for because of his tough history with injuries since coming to Baylor two years ago, but he’s also a winning player on and off the floor.
Want some evidence of Love’s impact? Per CBBAnalytics, Love was the team On/Off leader last year with a 14.2 net rating, nearly double Bridges’ 7.7. Love made that impact all over the floor. He is a phenomenal offensive rebounder for his position, has the ability to run the break and be a secondary ball handler, and can knock down threes when his teammates set him up (91% of his threes were assisted last year, per hoop-math.com).
His greatest value will be as a gap-filler who can slide between three different positions when needed. He’ll play a lot of minutes at the three, but he can slide down to the two if Drew wants to play big, and he can play up at the four for stretches if called on in small-ball lineups.
If Love has a breakout year, it will be because he progresses as a pick-and-roll ball handler and flips his flat assist-to-turnover ratio into a positive one. He’s already got a shot (36% 3PT) and rebounding ability in the bag. A little more offensive polish would really shine on this team that will need a little extra creation outside of Dennis and Little.
Versatility and Talent
Overall, what stands out in this group is the potential from multi-positional basketball. They can all handle switching up or down a position on defense, giving Drew the flexibility to play big with Bridges at small forward next to two bigs or small with three or even four guards. That versatility makes Baylor a difficult team to prepare for and capable of adjusting to their opponent, something that tends to lead to deep NCAA Tournament runs.
If this group hits their threes, defends at a high level, and has just a little juice off the bounce — watch out. The Baylor Bears are coming.