On the Golden State Warriors list of the best defensive opponents for Kevin Durant, Patrick Baldwin Jr. comes in quite low. If Andrew Wiggins had been available on Wednesday night, he would have been given that nearly impossible task.

If the Warriors hadn’t been on a back-to-back, Klay Thompson would have had plenty of opportunities to check Durant. With time, Jonathan Kuminga could develop into a wing-stopper, and Anthony Lamb’s defensive versatility helped him secure a spot in the rotation.

One of the league’s most underappreciated switch defenders, Kevon Looney possesses the uncommon length to threaten Durant’s position. JaMychal Green was acquired in part for his versatility as a defender, however, he was unable to play against Brooklyn due to illness. Of course, Draymond Green can effectively guard just about anyone, even if he loses a half stride moving his feet on the perimeter.

Baldwin unquestionably comes after those seven players in the Warriors’ hierarchy of Durant-capable defenders. There is even a case to be made that Stephen Curry, rather than Golden State’s rarely-used rookie sharpshooter, would be a superior choice to protect his former teammate.

All of that didn’t matter, though, since the Warriors’ dreadful six-game road trip came to an end on Wednesday with a 143-113 loss to the advancing Nets during extraordinarily prolonged garbage time.

Draymond Green’s

Baldwin made the most of his rare chance to play more minutes, demonstrating why Golden State selected him late in the first round of the 2022 selection despite a very disappointing freshman campaign at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. On Wednesday, he came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points, nailing 5-of-8 three-pointers and displaying his 6’9 height while doing so.

Remember that the Warriors didn’t select Baldwin due to his ability to contribute on the defensive end of the court. Midway through the first quarter, though, Draymond Green made the decision to still put Baldwin in the lion’s den of protecting Durant despite his team’s appalling lack of players.

Baldwin remembers Green telling him during the game, “F*** it, you got KD.”

Durant ended with 23 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and four steals. The brunt of his damage was done before halftime when the Nets had a ludicrous 91-51 lead.

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Durant’s eyes lit up as Baldwin guarded him almost from the minute he entered the game in the middle of the second quarter. Prior to halftime, Durant made his first three of his five straight baskets while Baldwin served as his main defender. The two-time Finals MVP also outperformed James Wiseman as a pick-and-roll assister and switch defender.

It’s not exactly shocking that Durant would destroy a 20-year-old forward who, less than a year ago, had a net-negative defensive rating against mid-major opposition. Baldwin’s trial by fire versus Durant may prove to be a turning point in his overall growth if he ultimately fulfills the potential Golden State sees in him.

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