The 2018 NBA Draft will be remembered for a long time, particularly through the lens of the Atlanta Hawks. Only time will tell as to how Travis Schlenk and the front office will be graded for their efforts but, in the hours and days since the 2018 draft came to a close, at least some of the attention shifted to 2019.
The Hawks could have three first-round picks and, in theory, three lottery picks in the 2019 class if everything comes together perfectly. At a minimum, though, Atlanta’s own 2019 selection projects to be in the lottery again given the rebuild and Jonathan Givony of ESPN recently projected R.J. Barrett to the Hawks in his (very) early mock draft.
Barrett is set to enroll at Duke in the fall and he was widely seen as the top high school recruit in the country. Candidly, my exposure is relatively limited to 2019 prospects at this point in time (especially those who were not in college during the 2017-2018 season) but a few trusted names have already glanced at Barrett.
Ricky O’Donnell of SB Nation has Barrett at No. 2 on his early big board and says the following about the Canadian wing.
Barrett has aced every test he’s faced on his way to Duke. His crowning achievement was leading Canada to a gold medal at the under-19 World Cup last summer, which was highlighted by a 38-point performance in an upset win over John Calipari’s USA team in the semifinals.
Barrett is an athletic 6’7 guard who can handle the ball and get to the rim. He’s a force in transition and a developing facilitator. His jump shot is the question mark in his skill set.
Athleticism on the wing can certainly be tantalizing and that is something the Hawks will certainly need to add somewhere along the way when attempting to construct a contender. From there, Chris Stone of the Sporting News references Barrett’s high floor and well-rounded game.
Barrett projects as the top prospect with the highest floor in the 2019 NBA Draft. The 6-7 wing is a good athlete, excellent at getting to the rim and has an improving jump shot.
He’s competitive on the boards and on the defensive end. The questions relating to Barrett’s long-term potential feature around what kind of upside he actually has left in the tank.
Finally, Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated (who recently joined the Locked on Hawks podcast) evaluates Barrett in this way.
As it stands, Barrett is on track to follow Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett as the third Canadian-born No. 1 pick in the last seven drafts. An athletic, slashing wing, Barrett’s ability to get to the basket and create off the dribble coupled with the consistency of his play has earned him the top spot coming out of high school.
He’ll eventually have to address NBA teams’ concerns about his jump shot. Watching Barrett, Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson share one ball at Duke this fall will be fascinating.
It has to be noted that there are a few players that could certainly contend for No. 1 pick status, including Duke teammate Cam Reddish, North Carolina’s Nassir Little and international prospect Sekou Doumbouya. Still, Barrett sits at or near the top of virtually every projection for the 2019 class and it can be fun to dream.