No Zion? No problem for Duke! A lot of the focus on Duke right now is the loss of Zion Williamson. As most of us saw, he blew through his shoe making a spin at the basket during the loss to North Carolina. The team looked lost after hearing Williamson was out for that game, as well as becoming day-to-day. Williamson missed Saturday’s game against Syracuse. Someone had to step up for this team that looked like deer in headlights. It turned out to be the second-in-command for the team, as well as the NBA draft stock, R.J. Barrett.
Why R.J. Barrett Will Be a Top-Five Draft Pick
Barrett’s Impact As The Leader
In the Syracuse game, Barrett finished with 30 points, five rebounds and seven assists. Barrett may not have been as flashy as Williamson has shown, but he made plays that helped the team win. He made key passes to Alex O’Connell. He and Tre Jones helped him out any way they could.
Barrett made two dunks, some flash that Williamson has. However, he showed throughout the game that he still provides that leadership that Duke needs. He’s much quieter, but he proved against a tournament-worthy Syracuse team that he has a stout leadership role. In the loss to Virginia Tech, he still showed great leadership. Now, with Williamson hurt, he will be battle-tested as teams will prepare for him as the leader.
Barrett was also being heavily guarded by Tyus Battle and Marek Dolezaj. Battle and Dolezaj may not be NBA ready, but leading Duke to a nice win against a tournament team like Syracuse is something that Ja Morant still cannot say, but that could change.
Barrett’s impact following Zion
Looking at Barrett’s game log, he certainly has been Williamson’s second-in-command. He’s had six double-doubles and a triple-double, which is astounding as the second-in-command. Seeing as double-doubles and triple-doubles involve vastly sharing the ball, Barrett has that NBA skill. Also, with the leadership that Mike Krzyzewski has, Barrett has been learning from high-quality basketball knowledge. With the learning he’s gone through and the performance he’s had behind Williamson, Barrett is a top-five draft pick.
Why is Barrett in the Top Five?
Being top-five draft pick ready includes scoring, team efficiency and doing so against Quad-one and Quad-two teams. Williamson and Barrett have all three of these skills. Morant has yet to prove it against Quad-one and Quad-two teams, but this isn’t his fault. Morant will have that chance in March. As explained following Williamson, Barrett has put up similar numbers to his Syracuse game.
While neither Williamson or Barrett control the ACC schedule, Duke is a team that is trusted to play high-quality opponents. Kentucky, Gonzaga and North Carolina are just to name a few. College teams aren’t NBA teams, but Quad-1 and Quad-2 teams provide the competitive standpoint that the NBA will have. This prepares draft talent for the future. The greatest of the great, as perceived, get taken in the top five. Williamson has proved it. With his performance against Syracuse, Barrett has now proved it.