Height: 6’7” Weight: 210 Wingspan: 6’10” Age: 18 College: Duke Hometown: Toronto, Ontario
RJ Barrett had an elite freshman season at Duke averaging 22.6 points per game, and it probably doesn’t get talked about it enough. He’s known to be inefficient, and it makes sense because parts of his game are but he shot 45% from the field this year. I believe his stats would have been even better this year if he had more floor spacing to work with. The fact that he played on a team with no floor spacing, and his game is mostly based on breaking his defender down and getting to the rim, makes his scoring average even more impressive. RJ is great at drawing help and making plays for himself and others, and has an alpha-dog mentality. His mentality helps him for the most part, as few are as confident and passionate as him, but there were a few times he hurt his team with his confidence. He adjusted later in the year and was more willing to give Zion the ball in crucial moments, and that takes a lot of maturity for an 18 year old to do that. His weaknesses are his jump shot, and right hand, if he fixes those areas he could be an all star level player, if not he’ll be just another solid player as a primary or secondary ball handler.
RJ has very good hesitations and change of pace in isolation situations. He’s not overly quick but because his long strides, ability to use off arm to hold off defenders, and ability to read the defenders angle he’s very good at getting in the lane to draw help or finish in a 1 on 1 situation. He was in the 73%tile in isolation including passes, which is better than it sounds because of the lack of space he was working with. In the NBA he will have way more opportunity to showcase his ability to drive and finish, and he may be good to use in some elbow iso’s also because of his ability to use his body on his drives. While driving left and getting all the way to the rim he has an insane 1.786PPP (points per possession). His ability to finish with power and remain stable through contact going left is incredible. Although he has a lot of strengths with his driving ability, and in certain games he was unstoppable this year, he has a lot of exposeable areas. Every time you want to attack you have three options, shoot, drive right, or drive left. Out of those three areas RJ is only efficient driving left, so defenses can win with forcing him right, or making him shoot. RJ refuses to finish with his right hand, and although his PPP driving left in iso situations was an incredible 1.138, his PPP going right was a poor .674. This is mostly due to him not having confidence in his right hand at the rim, so he’s forced into very tough finishes for him whenever he drives right. His inconsistent shooting also hurts him because slower defenders that shouldn’t be able to stay in front of him can sag off. He sometimes relies on bully ball to finish at the rim so I think he would struggle with big strong defenders, and even if they are slow they can give him a step. He was only in the 41st percentile in efficiency on threes and long twos last year. That isn’t terrible but if he could consistently knockdown jumpshots he would have much more options, and be much harder for the defense to guard. He shoots in the 64th percentile off the dribble, but off the dribble jump shots are inefficient in general, and his 64th percentile equates to .859PPP which is a win for the defense. RJ is good at getting in the lane, but if he doesn’t improve his right hand or jump shot, defenses will expose him at times guarding him as he really only has 1 of the 3 options while attacking at this point in his career.
RJ is a very solid pick and roll player even though in pick and rolls including passes he was in the 53rd%tile only. You can’t just look at the numbers you have to watch the film and realize why they are what they are. RJ had a lack of space he was working with in the pick and roll because of Dukes lack of shooting. Many times he would do a great job of getting into the lane, and would kick out for wide open jumpers that misses. This hurts his efficiency even though it isn’t his fault at all. He’s very crafty in the pick and roll, and never gets sped up, just the way most great pick and roll players in the pick and roll never do. All of his pick and rolls were going left to the middle at Duke, and he will need to work on his right hand, so his team can run on both sides of the floor. He could struggle with teams that ice the pick and roll when he wants to use the screen to get to the middle and go left. Instead he will be forced to go right to the sideline, and because he isn’t good attacking right this could hurt his pick and roll efficiency. However, he does have great vision in the pick and roll, and he should be great in the NBA at getting middle and finding shooters out of the pick and roll. Although he has great vision, he also turned the ball over a lot this year and his assist/to ratio was only 1.34. Even though he is a score first player if he wants to be a primary ball handler in the NBA that is going to have to improve.
The two areas RJ scored most of his 22.6ppg in college were in transition and spot ups. His efficiency in transition was average, but on ridiculously high volume. He’s a very aggressive finisher in transition, often dunking all over defenders. He can be great as the ball handler or running on the wing in transition because of his athleticism. Often as the ball handler he would find a way to get coast to coast for a dunk, and just has a knack and aggression for scoring in transition. I don’t see this changing in the NBA. The reason he scored a lot in spot ups was simply because that is where he was a lot. He is an average-below average spot up player. He’s an inconsistent shooter, but a spot up jumper is a very efficient shot, and I think he didn’t trust it enough in college. His total spot up efficiency was .894PPP, while in no dribble jumpers off of spot up his efficiency was 1.044PPP. He only shot a no dribble jumper in 57% of his spot up shot attempts, and if he would have shot more of them instead of attacking the closeouts off the dribble he likely would have been overall more efficient in spot ups. RJ could hurt his team by not being a great spot up player, as it gives his teammates less room to work with. However RJ should be handling the ball more than spotting up because that suits the strengths of his game better.
Defensively RJ had his moments, but also had some lapses. When locked in he is a very solid defender, and because of length and athletic ability can guard 1-small ball 4’s which is important in the modern switchy NBA. He was solid staying in front of the ball, but got beat backdoor way too often. He also died on screens often, and made no effort to recover. He needs to work on keeping vision of ball and man which should come from more experience and focus on the defensive end. He has a chance to be a great defender due to his physical tools and competitiveness. RJ is an elite competitor so I was surprised to sometimes see him lack focus on the defensive end. In the NBA, I believe he will focus on that end a little more, and become a serviceable defender, instead of an average-below average defender like he was at Duke
RJ is an elite competitor that is not afraid of the big moment. He shows incredible effort and passion when he plays, and you can tell he wants to win as bad as anybody. He also has an elite level of confidence. Confidence is normally great, but there were a few times this year where his confidence hurt him. At the end of the Gonzaga game he was forcing way too much instead of trusting his teammates, and getting the ball to Zion down the stretch. However, he learned from his mistakes, and was very unselfish giving Zion the ball down the stretch of the UNC game in ACC tournament. I love his confidence, but I hope he’ll be able to trust his teammates also in the NBA.
RJ scored 22.6ppg for a reason, and when he gets to the rim going left he is virtually unstoppable. He has a herky-jerky style and is very good at getting in the lane to create for himself or others. If he can improve his shot, and right hand he could become an all star level player. He will be very hard for defenses to guard if he improves those things because then whatever option they pick will be the wrong one. If he improves his focus on the defensive end that will help him reach his goals. RJ has great mentors, he is Steve Nash’s godson so i’m sure there is plenty he could learn from him. He also works out with Drew Hanlen who is one of the best skill coaches in the world, and I’m sure RJ will constantly improve his skill and IQ if he continues to work with Drew. Despite all his strengths RJ’s weakness concern me, and I think they can be exposed. However because of his competitiveness I think he will be fine if he doesn’t improve on what he needs to, and his absolute floor is a rich man’s Evan Turner. I expect him to be the primary or secondary ball handler for a solid team, and if he improves on what he needs too, could be the primary ball handler on a great team.