In last month's NBA Draft, there were two Canadian prospects drafted in the top-10, with Jamal Murray (#7 Denver Nuggets) and Thon Maker (#10 Milwaukee Bucks). Those selections marks a continued progression of the Canadian basketball scene, as the country continues to crank out top-notch talent. I examined that Canadian excellence in a recent piece, when I looked at Canadian-born prospects that could help lead the country to the Olympics. As of the time of this writing, the Canadian National Team is competing in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, where they currently sit with a 2-0 record after beating Turkey and Senegal.
While the country's attention is rightfully on the Canadian National Team, some of their top prospects recently competed in the FIBA U17 tournament. Going into the tournament, they were listed as one of the favorites due to their influx of top-notch talent. That crew was led by top-10 2018 recruit Simi Shittu and top 2019 recruit RJ Barrett. While Shittu definitely impressed over the course of the tournament, the top player on the squad was undoubtedly Barrett.
In a tournament that features some of the best young basketball prospects in the world, many a year older than the young Canadian, RJ Barrett was able to shine as one of the best players. Averaging 18.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 49% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc, he established himself as someone that can shine in a variety of different areas. That versatility is so impressive and knack towards contributing in a variety of ways is so impressive for someone like Barrett, that just turned 16 on June 14th.
However, when you watch RJ Barrett play, he looks more like a top-notch college player than someone getting ready to get a driver's license. On both ends of the court, Barrett shows terrific on-court awareness as he seems to know where to be on the court at all times. That's especially evident on the defensive end, as the young wing does a great job of both working as an on-ball and help defender. That work as a help defender is seen in the play below, as Barrett goes over to the cutting Aussie and blocks the shot attempt.
Transitioning over to the offensive end, Barrett really shines as a "jack of all trades" wing as he does a nice job with contributing in a variety of ways: facilitating, cuts in transition and half-court and perimeter shooting. That knack as a facilitator might be Barrett's most impressive skill as the young wing really shows that he could work as a point forward in the future. Averaging 2.3 assists per game, Barrett does a great job of using his 6'7 frame to see over the court and make his decision, whether that's through drive or kicks or dishing it off to a teammate in transition.
Another area where Barrett can use his quickness and athleticism is as an on-ball cutter. The majority of those cuts came through transition, as Barrett was pegged as the man to push Canada's offense. He did a terrific job in that area, as Barrett was a blur in transition due to his solid handles and impressive quickness. Same can be said about his work in the half-court, with Barrett regularly being able to work his way towards the paint. Although he's not too bulky, as Barrett only sits at 175 pounds, the young wing still does a nice job of drawing contact around the rim and still being able to score.
Last but not least, Barrett used the tournament to establish himself as a perimeter shooter as he shot 35% from beyond the arc. While that's not too efficient, it's a solid starting point for a young 6'7 wing with a lot of time to grow as a player. Barrett shows solid touch and nice rise on his jumper, but his stroke still looks a little shaky as you might see from the video below.
As RJ Barrett looks to enter his sophomore season at Montverde, where he'll be playing alongside Simi Shittu, he just seems destined for success. For someone so young, Barrett already has the tools that college teams around the country drool for. He's an athletic 6'7 wing with great basketball IQ and a versatile skill-set, which gives Barrett some ridiculous upside.