19 February, 2024
25 February, 2025
18 Yudai Baba (JPN)
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Breaking out Baba: How much has the high-flyer improved as a long-range shooter?

TOKYO (Japan) - There has been something different about Yudai Baba since his first appearance at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers in Window 4.

In that game against Iran, Baba scored 27 points - his career-high in senior national team play in FIBA competitions. It was the only other time at the time since playing against USA at World Cup 2019 where he has recorded a Usage Rate over 30 percent and also the second most amount of field goal attempts he’s taken in a game with 13 tries.



This was a change that was expected, however, as Japan were playing without stars Rui Hachimura and Yuta Watanabe. Baba’s heightened production on the offensive end was certainly impressive, but considering the context of the roster structure, it wasn’t unexpected.

Once he got to play with Watanabe at the World Cup, Baba took a slight step back as a priority in the offense. But the change was still clear to see in his game. When he played his first game of the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers in the big clash against China, that development was once again brightly present with a production of 24 points on 4 three-pointers and a career-high of 27 EFF.


To get a clearer picture of what has been different about Yudai Baba in these past few years, one would have to dig a bit more into the details of how he operates on offense.

We’re used to seeing Baba as the explosive and athletic slasher who can finish at the rim with authority. That is something that Baba has done and continues to do well with Japan, so much so that the phrase “Baba Boom” is expected when he goes off for his trademark transition slams.


This aspect of Baba’s game is still there and while it was still highly entertaining, it has not been the main focus of Baba’s offense. In recent competitions, he's also improved the presence of his jump shot, specifically from long range.

Yudai Baba's three-point shooting with the Japan national team

Games Played
3PA per game
3PA/FGA Ratio
EABA Championship 2017 4 19.6 0.8 33.3% 13.0%
FIBA Asia Cup 2017 4 15.3 0.5 50.0% 13.3%
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers 10 22.5 0.4 0.0% 8.7%
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 5 25.5 2.6 30.8% 28.9%
Tokyo Olympics 3 28.1 2.0 33.3% 27.0%
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers 2 28.8 4.5 55.6% 50.0% 
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 5 21.7 2.0 30.0% 37.0%
FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers 1 37.1 6.0 66.6% 60.0%


The raw numbers alone are already intriguing. In only the two World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers games, Baba already attempted as many three-pointers (9) than he had over a combined 18 games at the EABA Championship 2017 (3 attempts), FIBA Asia Cup 2017 (2 attempts), and throughout all windows at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers (4 attempts).

In the first game of the Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers against China, Baba once again matched his FIBA career-high in three-point attempts with 6.

It’s also been encouraging how confident Baba has looked taking these threes, considering how he’s hesitated in the past.


More playing time has obviously been a big factor for Baba, as he has emerged from an up-and-coming youngster to become a key piece of Japan’s offense. Still, when you break down the numbers, it is clear that Baba has continued to make the effort to expand his range even with a slight dip during the recent World Cup.

What’s also interesting is how these attempts are distributed. Baba is taking more three-pointers, but these three-point attempts are not being increased at the expense of his more efficient attempts as in transition buckets and drives to the hoop.

Instead, these attempted shots from beyond the arc are replacing long mid-range jump shots - shots which used to be a major part of Baba’s shot selection.

Yudai Baba's mid-range jump shooting with Japan national team
Games Played
MJA** per game
FIBA Asia Cup 2017 4 1.0 0.0% 26.7%
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers 10 1.8 50.0% 32.1%
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 5 1.2 0.0% 13.3%
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers 2 0.0 N/A 0.0% 
FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 5 0.0 N/A 0.0%
FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers 1 0.0 N/A 0.0%

* = Insufficient information from EABA Championship 2017 and Tokyo Olympics
** = Mid-range jump shot attempts
*** = Mid-range jump shot shooting percentage

The 1.95M (6’5”) wing had struggled with his jump shot early on, notably at Asia Cup 2017. From there, Baba seemed to have made a point to improve in this area and the results could be seen in the World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers.

However, as he has continued to play against high level of talents and more athletic players whether it’s in the World Cup or the Olympics, these shots became more rushed by Baba and better contested by his opponents.


In the first two games of the World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers, Baba has not taken a single attempt from this range at all, coinciding with his uptick in three-point shooting attempts.

Once Tom Hovasse took over their reigns as the Japan national team head coach, it was inevitable that Baba’s three-point shooting would take a spike. Hovasse challenged one of his biggest stars to adjust his play and Baba rose to that challenge.

"It was a challenge to see if he can change his mind to that of a shooter," said Hovasse in Japanese as per Basket-Count.

"I was able to play a new kind of basketball that I wanted, and I was able to see myself objectively. I felt like I was growing in those games," said Baba in Japanese as per Basket-Count.

"Considering the three-point shot as the first option, the defense reacted to the point that I honestly thought basketball was too easy. I can now use it, and I want to master this mentality," Baba added.


As Baba has made three-point shooting a larger priority in his arsenal, it also means he’s usually already in shooting range when he receives the ball on the perimeter. In the past, we’ve seen multiple times where Baba has to take a dribble or two after catching a pass to get into his zone of operation. His improvement in taking three-pointers puts a bit more pressure on the defense to close out on him, opening up more options for the wing scorer.

This is also something that Baba has been developing in the recent years as evident from his play with professional clubs.

As per information and data provided by InStat in 2022, the majority of Baba's possessions are in transition as expected with 28.4 percent in the NBL and 39.7 percent in the NBA G-League. Not far behind, however, are catch-and shoot possessions with 25.9 percent in the NBL and 15.4 percent in the G-League.

Baba's bread and butter continued to be in those open floor situations with1.25 points per possession in transition in NBL and 1.29 points per possession in transition in G-League. However, he's also found success in these catch-and-shoot situations with 1.01 points per possession in catch-and-shoot situations in NBL and 1.5 points per possession in catch-and-shoot situations in G-League.

The numbers speak even louder for themselves when you stack up his statistics in professional club play.

Yudai Baba's three-point shooting with professional clubs
Games Played
3PA/FGA Ratio
Alvark Tokyo B.League (JPN) 2017-18 45 1.84 0.62 33.7% 29.3%
Alvark Tokyo Asia Champions Cup 2018 5 1.4 0.4 28.6% 17.9%
Alvark Tokyo  B.League (JPN) 2018-19 65 1.26 0.29 23.2% 15.0%
Texas Legends G-League (USA) 2019-20 41 2.29 0.95 41.5% 49.0%
Melbourne United NBL (AUS) 2020-21 36 2.53 0.83 33.0% 41.7%
Texas Legends G-League (USA) 2021-22 8 2.12 0.88 41.2% 26.5%
Melbourne United NBL (AUS) 2021-22 10 2.50 0.40 16.0% 55.5%
Texas Legends G-League (USA) 2022-23 39 3.08 1.26 40.8% 37.7%
Nagasaki Velca*** B.League (JPN) 2023-24 34 3.85 1.32 34.4% 41.2%

*** = As of March 1, 2024

All in all, it’s been interesting to see these changes in Baba’s game.

What has made this long-range shooting development more “exciting” to track is the fact that Baba has been making these three-point shots against opponents like Iran (where he went 5-6) and China (where we shot 4-6). Japan basketball fans are certainly pleased with Baba's confidence and aggressiveness on offense, as is Hovasse who had even suggested that coming back to play professionally in Japan would help Baba in this aspect of his game.

The results have been satisfying.

"I was happy with whatever he wanted to do but I really think at this point of his career, he needs to be the main guy in these games in the B.League," said Hovasse in the post-game Press Conference after defeating China.

"That's gonna be a really big part of his growth, What I'm super proud about, when we first started playing, I asked him to become more of a scorer, like a shoot-first mentality and [this game] he was 4-for-6. That's what I envisioned. A balance to his game, where they're gonna have to put him on the three-point shot."

"China had to put him on the 3-point shot and that opens up his driving lanes, that gets him to the free throw line. Once he's comfortable, he's getting more and more comfortable, I think he's gonna really blossom even more. I'm really excited."

It seems clearer and clearer that these three-point shooting outbursts against Iran and China are more than just an outlier. Because of that Japan basketball fans should be more than happy to see one of their brightest stars continue to make an effort to expand his game.