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Duke men's basketball 2018-19 player preview: RJ Barrett

<p>R.J. Barrett will be one of the focal points of Duke's offense this season.</p>

R.J. Barrett will be one of the focal points of Duke's offense this season.

RJ Barrett  

  • Year: Freshman  
  • Height: 6-foot-7  
  • Position: Forward  
  • Last year’s statline: N/A  

Game Breakdown: He may not be as widely known as his fellow freshman Zion Williamson, but RJ Barrett will be the engine that makes or breaks this year’s Blue Devil squad. No one comes close to the number of accolades that the consensus No. 1 overall recruit racked up in high school, with a trophy case that includes a Gatorade National Player of the Year award, a Naismith Player of the Year award, and a FIBA U19 gold medal and MVP trophy. 

Barrett’s skills on the court revolve around his scoring prowess, above average athleticism and great defensive instincts. The Montverde Academy product averaged 28.7 points per game in his senior year where the Eagles went on to a 35-0 record and a state championship. Barrett has the capability to become an outstanding perimeter defender, if he stays as focused on defense as he is on offense. 

The one part of the preseason first-team All-American’s game that concerns scouts is his perimeter shot. Barrett has a nice touch on his midrange game but will need to make deep shots off the dribble in Coach K’s motion offense to live up to the hype. 

Role on the Team: This year will be the first time since 2015 that Duke does not return a former All-American who can score the ball, so Barrett will be thrust into the alpha dog role from day one. Everything we’ve seen from the Canada trip and the two exhibition games has shown that the Canadian is not afraid to be a stone-cold killer with the ball in his hands. 

The projected first overall pick in next year’s draft will start at shooting guard, but Jordan Goldwire’s limited use in the two exhibition games means that Barrett will likely take over point guard duties when Tre Jones is not in the game. If the Mississauga, Ont. native is going to run the show for the Blue Devils, he has to start making more heady plays on offense, as his desire to put the ball in the basket can get in the way and lead to bad shots and turnovers. 

NBA Comparison: Barrett’s relentless scoring attack and two-way potential translate most similarly to Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, who is wrapping up his last year in South Beach after a career that includes three NBA titles and 12 all-star appearances. 

Both Wade and Barrett have a scorer’s first mentality, with the Heat star averaging 22.5 points per game over his career and leading the league in scoring in 2009. The two thrive with the ball in their hands and garner so much attention on the court that they can easily find open teammates. Barrett’s glaring weakness at this point in his career is three-point shooting, something that Wade, a career 29% shooter from deep, has struggled with as well. 

The Duke star does have three inches on the Marquette product, but with play styles so similar, Barrett would be thrilled to have a career that compares to the former Finals MVP Wade. 

Projected Stats: 22.5 PPG, 3.1 APG, 4.9 RPG 


 

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