The college season is still months away, but that didn’t prevent R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson from putting in a solid week of work during Duke’s three-game stretch in Canada. The Blue Devils captured three victories in three games, and two of their four high-profile freshmen looked excellent in the process.
Duke’s promising crop of freshmen still have a long journey to the NBA Draft. It is important to approach this evaluation with the appropriate grains of salt, but that doesn’t mean that last week’s stretch of games shouldn’t be completely discarded.
Let’s now take a closer look at few things from Duke’s summer tour.
Barrett Shows Off His Versatility
With Tre Jones on the sidelines, Barrett filled the void at point guard for Duke. The Canadian guard didn’t disappoint on his home soil. Whether it was in half-court sets, or on the break, Barrett consistently made plays while moving downhill. His ability to create shots for himself doesn’t come as a shock, but the 18-year-old guard’s ability to open up the entire Duke offense will further add to his profile.
Barrett’s biggest game as a distributor came in the Blue Devils’ matchup against McGill, where we came away with 10 assists. Passing wasn’t the only way the talented guard created opportunities. By exploiting the gravity created by his presence on the perimeter, he was also able to draw defenders away from passing lanes. With the lanes open, Duke feasted in the paint.
Here is one example of Barrett’s ability to fit the ball in tight spaces.
Everything As Advertised
Williamson has garnered a reputation as a human highlight reel, and that reputation held up after three monstrous performances north of the border. Even with his previous game film in mind, Williamson’s ability to reload after his initial jump is at an elite level.
The sturdy 18 year old created offense out of nothing with his rebounding instincts in each Blue Devils victory. In this video, Williamson zooms by a defender to clean up a missed three-point attempt.
Williamson’s ability to snake through a potential box out is just as impressive as the put-back dunk. The big fella can generate points without having his number called, which will pay huge dividends for Duke’s loaded lineup this season.
Work In Progress
It is hard to find negatives from the Blue Devils’ Canadian tour, but a handful do exist. Barrett was unable to get his three-point shot going throughout the week. He shot just 28.6 percent from beyond the arc on 21 attempts. If that percentage doesn’t improve, it could have real consequences for the other parts of Barrett’s offense. Solid defensive teams will take away the paint and dare the 18-year-old guard to shoot if his woes continue.
The critiques surrounding Williamson’s performances are much more subtle. His ability to guard in space was hit and miss. Williamson was targeted on pick-and-roll plays, and occasionally let a smaller opponent by him. Offensively, the sturdy forward failed to record a three-pointer in Duke’s final two contests.
The buzz surrounding the Blue Devils’ freshmen class somehow got even louder after last week. Barrett and Williamson both improved their stock, and displayed that they can be effective without having plays called for them. When Cam Reddish and Jones join the lineup, there will be plenty of opportunities for all four youngsters to flourish.
—Steve / @SteveDHoops / BEdgeSteve@gmail.com