Duke star R.J. Barrett is heading to the Knicks.

By Jenna West
June 20, 2019

The New York Knicks selected Duke forward R.J. Barrett with the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

Barrett, a former five-star recruit, was the consensus top player in 2018 coming out of high school. He earned the Gatorade National Player of the Year honors during his senior season and was expected to be the star of Duke's freshman class.

In his first game for the Blue Devils, Barrett broke the school's freshman scoring record with 33 points and six assists against No. 2 Kentucky at the Champions Classic. The forward shared the spotlight with teammate Zion Williamson to lead the Blue Devils to an incredible season. 

Barrett led the team with 26 points and 14 rebounds in Duke's first-round NCAA tournament win over North Dakota State. He finished the tournament with 81 total points when the Blue Devils were eliminated by Michigan State in the Elite Eight.

During his single season at Duke, Barrett finished his career averaging 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

SI's draft expert Jeremy Woo's breakdown: While most scouts agree Barrett is likely to have a productive, quality career, there is some debate about his style of play and whether it will be conducive to winning games. He’s a natural scorer who should be able to continue doing so at the NBA level, but relentlessly hunts shots to the point where it can be a detractor. To maximize his ability, his shot selection must improve, and he needs to refine himself into a more consistent perimeter shooter, both of which are certainly within reach. At the college level, his strength, coordination, and particularly strong left hand coupled with an intense competitive approach paid dividends.

In the pros, teams will sag off of him until he proves dangerous, and his apparent lack of interest in defense may become more of a problem. When Zion Williamson missed time this season, you would have liked to see Barrett empower his teammates more. His natural tendency is to look to score, and though he’s a very capable playmaker with the ball in his hands, those assists often came more as a byproduct of his ball-dominant role than in the game flow. Still, with his work ethic and productivity, he should last in the NBA for a long time.

Jeremy Woo's grade: A

Barrett is generally considered to be the third-best prospect in the draft, and his scoring ability makes a lot of sense for the Knicks, who continue to accumulate talent in the interim while also angling to recruit star free agents. Barrett makes a good deal of sense situationally, and could immediately be New York’s most valuable young player. They need someone to score the ball, and can give Barrett time to play through his mistakes. If the Knicks don’t bring in any top talent this summer, it could be a long year ahead, but Barrett fits what they need long-term. If he can mature as a decision-maker and expand his skill set offensively, New York should ultimately be happy with this choice.

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