Bio: RS Sophomore, 6’7”, 205 lb., Bettendorf
Last Season: .496 FG%, .394% 3PT%, 2.6 rebounds/g, .7 steals/g, .6 blocks/g, 4.8 points/g
What We Need To See This Season:
While Baer delighted ursine-pun enthusiasts in his freshman year and sent sportswriters to their thesauruses in search of synonyms for “spindly”, he also emerged as a crucial bench player for the Hawks and a surprisingly versatile per-minutes stats monster. He arguably swung two games for the team – the Drake game, with his blocks and threes, and the Purdue game, with his work at the top of Iowa’s full-court press – and was the one bright spot in the Hawks’ demoralizing tournament loss to Villanova. His per game stats don’t look that impressive at first glance, but when you adjust for the fact that he compiled them in just 14.5 minutes a game, they start to look downright Ryan Bowen-esque. Almost a three, a block and a steal a game, in less than 15 minutes a game? That’ll do. If you are a fan of advanced stats, his .156 win shares/40 minutes was third on the team behind Jarrod Uthoff and Peter Jok, and that number only dropped to fifth on the team in conference play.
He had his peaks and valleys in 2015-16; his minutes dwindled in several Big 10 games and sometimes he looked overmatched athletically on defense, but that may have been the result of Baer hitting the freshman wall as the physical level of play ramped up. After a summer of conditioning that has increased Baer’s weight from 185 to 205, he should be a more reliable presence on the court.
Best Case Scenario:
It is unclear whether Baer will start, but If his frame and conditioning allow him to play 20-25 minutes a game this year and his per-minute averages hold, he could put up something like 8 points, 5 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1 block and 1.5 threes a game. That kind of Kirilenkovian line is a rare thing in basketball, and he would be a valuable part of the team if he just holds form. But if he actually shows some growth in his skill set, as young players are wont to do? Then things start to get exciting.
Baer is the truth. His walk-on story and Malcolm in the Middle look hide it sometimes, but Baer is one of the more skilled basketball players on this Iowa team. Baer showed some nifty offensive moves and a reliable jump shot last year. He isn’t the strongest player, but he can shoot off the dribble and on fadeaways, and he leverages his decisiveness and length to get to the rim and finish. In a pinch, he can generate his own shot, and that skill is generally lacking in this year’s Iowa team. Outside of Peter Jok, there aren't many players who you would want handling the ball as the clock winds down to zero. Dale Jones is more of a spot-up shooter, Christian Williams is still an unknown quantity, Dom Uhl’s off the dribble game is a mess, Ahmad Wagner can’t shoot, and Tyler Cook is a freshman. If you want to defend Iowa this year, the game plan is simple: deny Peter Jok the ball and force one of those other guys create a shot. That's where Baer could fit in. If Fran realizes that the offense breaks down too often when Jok is the only reliable offensive threat in the game, he may be forced to play him alongside Baer, and possibly to start him.
Most Likely Scenario:
Baer comes off the bench around the 13 minute mark every game and spearheads a pressing energy lineup along with players like Wagner, Cordell Pemsl and Christian Williams. He averages 20 minutes a game and puts up the kind of line mentioned above, but doesn’t expand his role or skillset dramatically. He functions as the Gabe Olaseni of the 2016-17 team: the player who always seems to extend the lead when he comes off the bench and who you wish would play just a little more.
Eat your Wheaties, but not too much. Baer’s rail-thin frame sometimes made it look like Iowa had allowed an escapee from a TB sanitarium to run onto the court, but his slender physique had some advantages. He got beat up in the post, sure, but his quickness and length allowed him to be a credible defender on the wing and to block a surprising number of jump shots. All the reports are that Baer is working with a nutritionist to up his weight, but let’s not go crazy with this weight gain. Baer is really a three in college, not a four, and probably shouldn’t be asked to defend post players all that much. A strong-but-still-quick 205 pound frame sounds about right.