Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
"I think these two guys have a legitimate argument as to who's the best guy coming out and who will be the best pro. I don't think, by any means, it's automatic that Zion will be a better pro than RJ."
The quote above was from Kevin Boyle, R.J. Barrett's high school coach at Montverde Academy. Having coached pros like Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons and D'Angelo Russell, Boyle knows elite talent. But he also is partial to Barrett, the player the Knicks seem most likely to draft, for obvious reasons. So we asked neutral parties -- scouts and talent evaluators -- if they thought that Barrett could end up as a better pro player than Zion Williamson, his Duke teammate.
Here's what they said:
"If his shot comes around, if his feel improves, if he starts defending, if he improves his finishing around the rim, improves efficiency, and if he starts passing more…sure, but the odds are very heavily against him. He will have to be an outlier in multiple categories to overtake what Zion can / will be. Defense can be improved, shooting (at least catch and shoot) can improve, passing can improve…but off-dribble jumpers are immensely important to reach that "next level" for guards in the NBA, and I don't think his form translates well to that. Though the added space could help his finishing a little bit, his average touch and vertical pop/burst hurt him here; this means his efficiency likely stays around league average, unless he starts getting to the FT line at a very high rate (or his 3-point shot really comes around). Basically, there is a route, but it includes him improving heavily in multiple areas and Zion staying stagnant."
"Williamson and Barrett have consensus on their side, Barrett is definitely a higher risk but also maybe higher reward than Williamson. Zion is rare and unorthodox but still very "what you see is what you get" with the added upside of a likely improved shot. Given that 19-year -olds usually fill out, Williamson either needs to be extremely careful with his weight or the probable alternative is that he has physically peaked - a damn good peak but again "what you see is what you get." Barrett has room to grow. He needs a lot of things to go right for him but if they do, it's possible he could be a better pro. His shot isn't broken. The foundation is there and it doesn't worry me too much. It should improve. What worries me is his shot selection and finishing. He makes some really poor choices when he drives and usually gets in trouble. His best attribute is his vision on the perimeter. At 6'7, if he can clean up his decision making in traffic, improve his shot and then add in his already excellent passing and vision, you're looking at a very dangerous combo guard. That sounds like a lot to happen but with the added space and the way the game is called, it is not as far-fetched as it may sound. Personally, at 3, he is a bit risky for me and too much has to happen in the right situation. Given the market value of Barrett and the 3 pick, if there's no one else they love, I would look at moving down or packaging it (never exciting in a big market city but sometimes the right thing). If Duke really had 3 top 10 picks and yet had so many close games, either a couple of them are a little overrated in a mediocre draft class or there are some hard questions to be answered at Duke. I'm inclined to think it's the former."
"I think that is very possible. RJ is a beast. Zion is just so polarizing. He's definitely a talented player. But I think a lot of the hype has a lot to do with the time we live in. The question to ask yourself is, 'Would Vince Carter be getting this type of hype is he was coming into the league now? Or any dynamic dunker/athlete like Zion? RJ's shot really came along throughout the year last year. Zion has a bit of a slow setup on his perimeter shot. That's my only concern with him really. But Barrett is no doubt a franchise player."