When Duke Blue Devils freshman phenom Zion Williamson suffered a scary knee injury, it meant his teammates would need to step up in a big way. While it was good news that Williamson was diagnosed with just a sprained knee after bursting through his shoe against the UNC Tar Heels, multiple players have helped to keep the arrow pointing up. One of the names who stands out most is RJ Barrett, who’s stepped up in a massive way.
Although Duke lost the game against North Carolina when Williamson left just over 30 seconds in, Barrett posted a superb stat line. The freshman tallied 33 points with 13 rebounds and four assists while playing all 40 minutes. He played the entire game again on Saturday against the Syracuse Orange, scoring 30 points with seven assists and five rebounds.
Barrett’s strong play of late and throughout the year has led to him being projected as one of the top picks in the 2019 NBA Draft. But former Duke star and current analyst Jay Williams said on ESPN’s ‘Get Up!’ that there’s talk Barrett could be selected before Zion, and he’s buying into it.
“A lot of people have just kind of put Zion Williamson in that spot to be the No. 1 pick in the draft, and RJ Barrett, who re-classified, who’s 18 by the way, he should be a senior in high school, has been averaging 27, 10 and seven over his last three games,” Williams stated.
“And I say to you this, if you put Zion Williamson on that team, I think Zion actually benefits more from having RJ, Tre [Jones] and Cam [Reddish] because you can’t help off those guys, even though they’re not shooting that well from the 3-point line. But if you have RJ By himself, I still think RJ is getting you those type of numbers by himself, whereas I don’t think Zion has the skill set to do so.”
Mike Greenberg then proceeded to openly ask if Williams was saying that Barrett “could surpass Zion and be the No. 1 pick in the draft.” Adamantly, the analyst made it known that he could and that others are talking about it as well.
“Yes, 100 percent, yes. And a lot of people are talking about it now, yes.” Williams said.
RJ Barrett’s Current NBA Mock Draft Projections
While those comments from Williams are certainly interesting, it’s not surprising to see that Barrett is still projected by most to come off the board after his teammate. Beyond that, many draft analysts are projecting him behind Murray State’s Ja Morant as well.
During the latest aggregated mock draft from Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype, which pulls predictions from five sites, Barrett came in as the No. 3 overall pick. Of the five sites, two had the Duke star listed ahead of Morant and going in the No. 2 spot after Zion. It’s worth noting this was before the injury, making it at least an interesting topic to debate how things may change.
ESPN’s list of “best available” players currently has Barrett No. 2 behind Williamson as well, but ahead of Morant. Beyond that, another Duke freshman in Cameron Reddish is pegged as the No. 4 best player on the board. They also have a fourth Blue Devil in guard Tre Jones as the No. 25 overall prospect.