Spurs Lottery Prospect Watch: R.J. Barrett

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The preseason hasn’t even started for the San Antonio Spurs, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start looking at next year’s NBA Draft prospects. The Spurs’ nailed their two draft picks this year in Lonnie Walker IV and Chimezie Metu so let’s keep the good times rolling.

This particular prospect is not projected to fall to where the Spurs might be picking next year — assuming they keep their playoff streak alive — but there was almost a situation where the Spurs could have ended up with a top pick this year. So we are going to make sure we have all bases covered this year. This week’s prospect is Duke wing man R.J. Barrett out of Canada.

The 6-foot-7, 202-pound small forward is likely to be a top-5 pick in 2019. That’s assuming he plays for Duke the way he played on the AAU circuit and for his national team during the latest FIBA Tournament over the summer. He has some great intangibles in that he doesn’t shy away from the spotlight, always showed up in the big moments and was often the best player on the court despite almost always being the youngest.

Barrett is a good spot-up shooter when given time and space, but he will have to fix some mechanical issues with his shot. He’ll have to raise his release point, but otherwise, it’s a solid shot. He is great in open space and can not only finish but enjoys the contact in the paint. He uses his long strides to get around any help defenders and while he can finish from a variety of angles, his go-to is a scoop shot. He’s also a capable enough passer to drop the ball to a big or hit a cutter in stride.

We haven’t really seen how good defensively he can be since not much of that is played on the AAU circuits. However, the potential is there with his frame as he has a 6-foot-10 wingspan and can move well. He lacks some strength in his lower body right now, but that could easily change just from the summer he’s been spending with Duke trainers in the weight room.

Barrett will have to work on his defensive communication as he can seem apathetic on that end of the floor at times and isn’t all that vocal either. He’s also a streaky shooter and struggles mightily at the free throw line — he shoots under 60 percent there. If he can fix those things in what will likely be his only year at Duke, then he could be a pretty great player.

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