The Atlanta Falcons had quite a debatable NFL draft some months ago, and now the focus of the city shifts to New York, where the NBA draft will take place. Only a few weeks away – the rumor mill is beginning to turn, and the Hawks are featured heavily amongst the gossip. Last year, a trade between Atlanta and the Dallas Mavericks resulted in the Hawks having two top ten picks this time around, but speculation is rife that a change could be on the horizon.
The New York Knicks, who appeared to be locked onto RJ Barrett with the third pick, are weighing a deal with the Hawks, which would see them gain the eighth and tenth picks from Atlanta. If this were to come to fruition, Barrett would almost certainly find himself at State Farm Arena come the start of the season. Hawks’ fans are familiar with the freshman out of Duke, but what more is there to know about the Canadian baller? And is he worth what it would take for the Hawks to acquire him?
Barrett spent his early years following his father, Rowan Barrett – who narrowly missed out on an NBA career himself – around the globe as he forged a living in professional basketball; this allowed Barrett junior to practice his ball skills profusely at a young age. Also, assisting Barrett with his development was his godfather, the eight-time All-Star and two-time MVP Steve Nash – not too shabby of a person to turn to for pointers. It’s also worth mentioning that head coach Lloyd Pierce played with Steve Nash in college at Santa Clara, so it’s no surprise Barrett is piquing the Hawks interest.
When his dad retired from playing, the family settled in the city of Mississauga, Ontario. Here, Barrett made a strong impression on the high school team before transferring to the esteemed Montverde Academy in Florida, and it didn’t take long for him to leave his mark. His performances earned him individual recognition as the nation’s #1 recruit and also helped his team to a championship title. According to SLAM Magazine, Barrett was the most decorated athlete to come out of high school since Lebron James.
In addition to starring for his High School, Barrett also followed in his father’s footsteps by representing Canada at the international level. His senior debut was followed by an under 19 team’s triumphant World Cup campaign. Barrett was named the tournament’s MVP as he led all scorers, averaging nearly 22 points per contest.
All of this led to him choosing to play for Coach K at Duke. Coming into the season, he was the #1 projected draft pick my most, and that includes his teammate Zion Williamson. As a Blue Devil, Barrett showed his natural ability as a scorer, paired with his above-average rebounding and exquisite passing for a shooting guard. Not too long after their season ended in the Elite Eight versus Michigan State, Barrett declared for the NBA draft.
By most accounts, this draft is a three-man race, meaning there is a substantial drop off after the top three players. The New Orleans Pelicans will be selecting Zion Williamson first overall, and the Memphis Grizzlies have told the world they are taking Ja Morant second, leaving Barrett as the prize for whoever picks third. But is he the right fit for the Hawks?
First and foremost, Barrett is a bonafide bucket-getter. He’s an elite player in transition that can finish himself or dish it to his teammates. In the halfcourt, Barrett will kill opponents around the basket with his size and strength. He can take the bump and has the focus and touch to finish in traffic. As a shooter, Barrett was not as efficient as he would have liked at Duke, but his jumper does not look broke from the left side. I have no doubt Barrett will be a threat from deep in the NBA. The Hawks desperately need a second ball handler outside of Trae Young. Barrett brings that and star power. The idea of Trae Young, RJ Barrett, and John Collins lining up together would be a nightmare for opponents defensively.
Barret’s downsides are more about what he can do better. The floor is so high for this kid; which is why many think he might have already peaked. However, I believe that mindset to be laughable. Barrett has to improve finishing with his right hand; he needs to become a more efficient shooter and sometimes tries to do too much. But this is a kid that is not even 19 years old yet. He was born to play basketball and would be a fantastic fit on a Hawks team that needs another ball handler and loves to run the floor.