Adjusting to life in the NBA isn’t always easy for rookies. Thankfully for Patrick Baldwin Jr. and Ryan Rollins, they have some of the best in the business to learn from as they embark on their professional journey. The Golden State Warriors rookie duo has been learning from both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson this season by observing them in practice and during games.
Both Baldwin and Rollins have spent the majority of this season in the G League with the Santa Cruz Warriors, but they have both been called up at times with the Warriors. In Rollins’ case, he suffered a season-ending injury, but he’s already displayed solid potential while getting time to develop in the G League. The main thing that he’s been impressed with by watching Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson is their work ethic.
“Just the work ethic, that’s one of the main ones,” Ryan Rollins told ClutchPoints before his injury. “For guys like that, you think that they get complacent with all the success they have over their career, but they still keep the daily grind and they keep working each and every day. They’ve been in the league for a while, guys like Steph it’s 14 years. It’s the work ethic.”
For Baldwin, he had heard all about the time and work that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson put into their craft. But none of that prepared him for being able to witness it in person.
“I think we all know about Stephen Curry and his work ethic and Klay Thompson perfecting his shot over the years, but that’s pretty awesome to see behind the scenes,” Patrick Baldwin told ClutchPoints. “How they’re crafting their game. . .those guys love being perfectionists on the floor and I’m getting as much knowledge as possible. It’s a great, great situation to be in.”
Neither player has gotten much playing time for the Warriors this season. Before injuring his foot, Rollins had only appeared in 12 games this season at a little over five minutes per game. Baldwin has seen a little more NBA action; 24 games at 8.1 minutes per. That’s one of the main reasons why both players have relished the opportunity to get some reps in the G League.
Ryan Rollins played in nine games this season for the Santa Cruz Warriors and averaged 18.6 points per game, 3.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.0 steals with shooting splits of 51.7 percent from the field, 35.7 percent from the three-point line and 88.5 percent from the free-throw line. Baldwin has played in eight games for the Santa Cruz Warriors and averaged 15.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists with shooting splits of 42.2 percent from the field, 35.8 percent from three-point range and 75 percent from the free-throw line.
Ryan Rollins came into the NBA primarily as a shooting guard, but playing the in the G League has allowed him to get some reps as a point guard, something that Steve Kerr and the Warriors coaching staff have wanted to see from him.
“Just playing more point guard, getting my teammates open, getting them easy shots and making them better. That’s really the main thing and that’s what I’ve been working on mostly,” Rollins said. “I appreciate it, it’s a way for rookies and young guys to come and get some reps that they might not usually get with their NBA squads. It’s a good opportunity to get reps, get better and keep going.”
Patrick Baldwin has been using the G League to work on his defensive ability. One of the main things he’s trying to keep in mind is that just because something is working in the G League doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to translate right away to the Warriors and the NBA.
“I just want to make sure that everything I do down here translates, every shot attempt translates, every defensive rep translates. It can get easy to fall into this game style in the G League,” Baldwin said. “You think something is working, then you go up with the main roster and see it not working. I just want to make sure I stay consistent and make sure that everything I do here works there.”
While the G League has grown in popularity over the years in terms of NBA teams, including the Warriors, using it for young players, it’s something Baldwin feels is dependent on the situation.
“I think every situation is unique. I think some guys do learn better by staying up top and other guys may learn better coming down here and just playing,” Baldwin said. “It depends on who your guy is. I think this ecosystem has grown over the years and I think it’s very good for young players to get some reps.”
Both players have had very different paths to the NBA. Patrick Baldwin was a highly-touted high school recruit who had several college offers from high-major Division 1 schools. He opted to stay close to home and play for his father at mid-major University of Wisconsin. He had an injury plagued freshman year but still was a sure-fire first round draft pick for the Warriors after just one season of college basketball.
Ryan Rollins on the other hand did not have many offers coming out of high school. The University of Toledo was the main school recruiting him and that’s where he chose to spend his college career. He spent two years at Toledo before declaring for the draft and being selected by the Warriors in the second round. As a sophomore, he was named to the All-MAC Team and that was when he found himself on NBA team radars.
“At the time I was just like I want to go where I’m wanted, where I’m going to get an opportunity to play basketball and get better,” Rollins said. “If you’re good at basketball and you can play, they’re going to find you regardless of where you’re at. It’s just on you. You end up going to a mid-major or a low-major school, you just put in the work and keep getting better.”
As both players continue to adjust to the NBA, figuring out what their role is on the court is crucial for their development. They understand that they aren’t going to get much playing time for a veteran-heavy team like the Warriors but they know what they have to do to ultimately get on the court.
“Just making the right plays and not turning the ball over. It’s being a point guard and not just a combo shooting guard that likes to score,” Rollins said. “Just figure out my role on the team which I’m kind of figuring out right now. Just keep getting better honestly, keep getting better and growing in areas I can improve on.”
Patrick Baldwin echoes that sentiment and also just wants to continue soaking up as much knowledge from the Warriors vets as he can.
“There’s too many guys in this locker room for me not to get better. Whether that’s on the court, off the court, just talking and communicating,” Baldwin said. “And then just being better on the basketball court. I think there’s a lot of stuff skill-wise I can build on and I think they see that up there.”
With Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson helping pave the way, the rookies are in good hands.