Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
One of the most important drafts in Knicks history is two weeks away. If it goes the way most assume it will, RJ Barrett will be on the board for New York at No. 3. Barrett, a 6-8 forward from Duke, is a tantalizing prospect. He averaged 22.6 points, 4.3 assists and 7.6 rebounds as a freshman -- the first player in NCAA history to have at least 850 points, 250 rebounds and 150 assists in a season. But, like all 18-year-olds, Barrett isn't perfect.
With that in mind, we talked to a few scouts and talent evaluators and asked them to share some of Barrett's strengths and weaknesses.
"He has the three things that I look for in a prospect: Elite athleticism, an ability to be dynamic with ball and the ability to shoot. He checks all three boxes," one scout said. "I just don't think his jump shot is as broken as people see it. And he's an elite athlete."
"Barrett can guard multiple positions I think you'll see him play point and handle the ball a lot too," another scout says. "He's got great ball skills and instincts. You can play him as a facilitator from the perimeter or the high post."
Adds Bryan Oringher, former Wizards video coordinator and advanced scout with the Hawks and Raptors: "He unquestionably has that rare, physical build of a solid 2/3 who can switch 1-4, take the physicality of the game."
"It's rare to find a scoring wing have multiple games with over 10 assists like Barrett did," Oringher notes. "Though not considered a PG, I see a guy who can play some point forward at the next level…. He plays the game with a terrific pace, reads PNRs well, stays under control and makes the right, simple pass almost every time. … He plays within himself. He rarely forces things. He makes the simple play offensively. He has a calm demeanor."
Adds another scout: "The plays he made out of the pick-and-roll at Duke were impressive. He's comfortable handling the ball at the top of the floor and showed that he can tilt the defense and create open shots for others. His vision in those situations was advanced for his age, and should translate well to this level."
"His biggest strength is his will to win. You can tell when he's playing that he really hates losing. From all reports, his work ethic is also apparently fantastic. The best example of his "will to win" is his FIBA play where he led Canada to a gold medal (including a big win against the US team,)" a scout said.
"He's (a) fierce and intense competitor. He just gets it," another talent evaluator says. "His coaches say you won't have a problem with his motor at any time and he's demanding of his teammates but holds them accountable without alienating them."
NOT ENOUGH TOOLS TO SCORE AT THIS LEVEL?
"I see a general lack of creativity in his game. I don't see the ability to pound and elevate and create much of anything from the midrange," notes Oringher. "I don't see much iso ability besides a simple straight left-hand drive. … It's going to be very difficult for him to be an elite scorer while lacking these attributes."
"There's a concern about his ability to go both directions off the dribble and there wasn't one thing that jumped out about his game at Duke where you said, 'This is an elite skill that will stand out at the next level.' That's worrisome," a scout said.
"There is a nasty flip side here too (to his competitive nature). That "will to win" can lead to forcing shots, distrust of team/system, etc.," one talent evaluator says. "Too many times this year it appeared as if he didn't trust his teammates/system and forced shots that he had no business taking.
Adds another scout: "Maybe his shot selection will be different at this level but it gave you pause when you watched him this season. The discipline may come, but it's far from a certainty and would leave me a bit concerned if I took him."
TOO UPRIGHT ON OFFENSE
"His lack of wiggle (plays stiff/upright) in the halfcourt is a big (weakness); RJ plays pretty stiff and upright. He's relied almost entirely on bullying smaller players in HS/NCAA to get to the rim, which will not work against bigger and better athletes in the NBA," a scout says. "The lack of wiggle also hurts his finishing ability, as he does not have the quick load-up or vertical pop needed to finish in the paint. Playing him off ball and allowing him to attack off closeouts (assuming his jumper progresses) would be a way to combat this because it would give him a "runway" to load up and attack the rim. When coupled with his average touch, his finishing is a big question mark."
Adds another scout: "There are big questions about his defense, but he has the frame and athleticism to get there at this level. Will he want to do it? It seems like he will, but you can never be sure until you get him on the floor."