Barrett Tatum

R.J. Barrett could have a homecoming this summer with Duke in talks for an exhibition trip to Canada.


A look ahead: Scouting R.J. Barrett

As college basketball has drawn to a close, the Blue Zone will take an early look at Duke’s incoming recruiting class—the top-ranked group in the nation. We start with small forward R.J. Barrett, the No. 1 recruit in the nation: 

Scouting report: strengths

At 6-foot-7, Barrett is a guard/wing with tremendous athleticism. A slasher, he can drive to the rim in isolation like on this play here in the McDonald’s All-American Game. 

As you can see from the rest of these highlights, he’s excellent at making plays in transition and throws down thunderous dunks like fellow Duke commit Zion Williamson. He’s also a left-hander like Marvin Bagley III, which can throw off defenders expecting a shot from the other side. 

But he isn’t just raw talent—one scout thinks he’s very well-polished. 

“His handle is tight and under control even in traffic, and he can both pull back for jumpers and step on the gas going to the basket,” MassLive's Tom Westerholm wrote.  "When he accelerates, he has long strides that cover a ton of ground on his way to the basket. The combination of speed, long strides and excellent pace will serve him really well at the next level.”

Scouting report: potential weaknesses

While Barrett has a lot of athleticism to play with, he has struggled to find a consistent perimeter shot. But it’s not beyond repair or something that can’t develop over time, Westerholm thinks. 

“It's far from broken. When he gets his feet set both off the catch and off the dribble, it looks considerably better than it did a year ago,” Westerholm wrote

Another more obvious potential weakness could be his size. Although he is tall and long, he  currently checks in at just 200 pounds, according to ESPN. He will have time to beef up before he sees the floor at Duke, but head coach Mike Krzyzewski might not be opposed to see him get a bit stronger. 

Recent Duke comparison:

Krzyzewski has leaned heavily on versatile forwards like Barrett in recent years, for example Brandon Ingram and Jayson Tatum. Ingram probably brought more from deep than Barrett will at this point and Tatum plays more post-up basketball than Barrett will. But Barrett is a much better finisher than either of them. 

There isn’t a perfect comparison for Barrett, but he has a somewhat similar profile to both Ingram and Tatum with his versatility. 


If Barrett can’t develop a consistent 3-point shot, Duke could become one-dimensional on offense, without an intimidating perimeter presence. He’ll be a great driver without a doubt, but he could see his draft stock and the Blue Devils fortunes drop a bit if he can’t completely round out his game. 


If everything goes right for Barrett, he hones his 3-point shot and becomes a transcendent scorer. He could approach Bagley’s scoring numbers if everything goes perfectly, helping make Duke the overwhelming national title favorites and earning him the honor of being drafted first overall. 

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