Throughout the season, Knicks Film School contributors will look at NCAA prospects to help Knicks fans better understand potential lottery picks leading up to the 2019 NBA Draft. Spencer Pearlman kicks off this series with a look at R.J. Barrett.


The Good:

Passing

  • RJ flashed some good vision in Indianapolis, showing the ability the get defenders to commit and hitting the open man both on the wings and on the dive. (Note, he ended with 6 assists, but I did not include a few of them due to their basic nature.)


Shooting

  • RJ’s shot looked better. His balance looks better, shot is more fluid, and he looks way more comfortable shooting it than he did during HS/AAU/FIBA. He went 3/7 from three, with his makes on catch and shoot looks. He has a nice step in, and even though there is a slight dip, I don’t think that’s an issue. Going forward, I’ll be looking to see if he is able to expand to a bit of an off the dribble jumper game.

Driving/Getting Into Paint

  • One of RJ’s biggest strengths, if not his biggest one, is his ability to get into the paint (and draw the foul). He drew 6 fouls yesterday and took 8 FTs, both team highs. He uses a combination of long steps, balance, and strength to get where he wants. He doesn’t have an explosive first step, but he uses his size very well.

Defense

  • There wasn’t much to take in a positive light on his defense from this game. To be honest, I only marked a few clips as being “+ defensive plays.” He was beaten by Keldon Johnson a few times early on and didn’t always move his feet quickly, although he has never been known as a great athlete so it was expected, but two clips I thought were solid can be found below. The first being a nice rotation, both of them being rotation based and not iso based.

Shooting Chart

  • I admit I might be reaching with this being a positive, but given the trend of NBA games, his shot chart is a thing of beauty. *NOTE, Synergy does not have every shot listed in their shooting chart, which is odd…but it is what it is.* Aside from a few elbow jumpers, RJ did the vast majority of his shooting in the paint (near the rim) or outside three. If he ever gets that three point shooting down, with his ability to draw fouls, his efficiency has a chance to be good on high volume.


The Bad:

Shot Happy

  • I know RJ is a volume scorer, but there were still a few times when I thought he got a bit “shot happy” and took the shot instead of finding the open man. In each of the clips below, RJ takes the shot before surveying the court (or just straight up misses the open man). Now, he is a scorer and does a hell of a job attacking the rim. However, there are some times where you wish he’d kick it out more when after he gets the defense’s attention. RJ’s passing is underrated as a whole, but if he were to flash it a bit more, it’d be talked about a bit more.


Defense

  • As mentioned above, RJ was not at his best on defense last night. RJ rotated a few times nicely on defense, but his lateral quickness isn’t there. Although he would get in his stance (which is great to see), I think it might have been too upright – this limits his lateral quickness. Lastly, I thought he would do half-hearted shot contests, but I might be nit-picking with that.

Paint Finishing

  • RJ had some nice finishes in traffic and showed really nice touch on two finishes in particular (see the first clips below), but there were a few finishes that highlight his lack of vertical explosiveness in the half court (second clips). RJ has strength, awesome body control, and long strides while attacking, but the lack of explosiveness even showed back during his FIBA Canada run where he finished only 54% of his shots at the rim (58th percentile) Some of these finishes might not be shot attempts as the season progresses and he hones his drive and kicks, but his finishing ability is still something to pay attention to going forward.


Overall

  • All in all, I thought it was as expected. RJ flashed the ability to create for others while being the main focus of the defense on drives, showed an improved jumper (after shooting poorly in Canada during the exhibition games, this was huge for me), had some nice defensive rotations, and showed an uncanny ability to get into the paint with a nice combination of size, strength/balance, and long steps.
  • In the next game, I’m looking for him to reign in some of the shot attempts. A few of the mid-range jumpers he took should be removed next game, and I’d like to see his head up a bit more when he drives – he really can create so many open looks with his ability to get into the paint, and finding the open spaces can get Duke many more open looks. I would also like to see him fix his defensive technique – get down a bit more in his stance and not be so lax. This is an easy fix and I’d be willing to bet that Coach K showed him his defensive lapses either right after the game or the day after.
  • One final note – next game, I will turn all of these single clips into a cohesive video for each section.

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