Assessing Nickeil Alexander-Walker, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish

March 1, 2019

by Alan Lu

This time around, I took the opportunity to watch R.J. Barrett and Duke play against Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Virginia Tech in an ACC basketball game that was played on February 26th.  This was a very competitive match, but Virginia Tech outplayed their opponent as they held on to get a win at home, as they received strong performances from Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kerry Blackshear, and Ahmed Hill.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared, and I also dole out my assessments about where they stand right now.

Virginia Tech’s sophomore guard, Nickeil Alexander-Walker had a fairly good showing in his team’s win over Duke.  Though he struggled to make jumpers from long distances, he excelled at drawing fouls upon his opponents, and he also passed and defended well when he was on the court.  Alexander-Walker showed an adequate ability to attack the basket to garner scores.  He would drive hard to the hoop, and he showed a knack for drawing fouls due to his ball handling skills and having above average foot-speed and quickness.  He also managed to score on a floater off of a left-handed drive, and he did a very good job of scoring in transition.  However, sometimes he would struggle to score in traffic when he wasn’t drawing fouls, as he had a couple of his shots blocked in this game.

However, he struggled to knock down jump shots when he was further away from the basket.  Alexander-Walker was able to make a deep three once, but he had trouble consistently making jumpers from beyond the arc, and he also missed a long two another time.  Also, he displayed very good playmaking skills.  Alexander-Walker is a smart, patient player that sees the floor well, and he can kick the ball out to shooters as well as throw passes from the post to set up a wealth of scores for his teammates.  He has good court vision to get them the basketball after dribbling off of screens, and he also can find cutters on the move.  He also is a crafty ball handler that can get numerous defenders to foul him.  His lone turnover was when he threw an inaccurate entry pass that ended up going out of bounds.

Also, he showed an adequate ability to get rebounds to help his team.  Alexander-Walker would leap up and run to get loose balls to haul in defensive rebounds, and he also managed to tip a ball to himself to get one in the process.  Plus, Alexander-Walker also played solid defense.   He played very good help defense in this game.  He would poke balls away from ball handlers to get steals, and he also intercepted a pass to collect another.  Also, he was able to rotate from the blindside to block a shot from a low post player to a teammate due to possessing good athleticism, timing, and instincts to do so.  Adding to that, Alexander-Walker was able to contest a deep three to force his man to miss the shot.  However, sometimes he will give his man too much space to shoot, which caused him to allow opponents to score on jumpers, and he also struggled to defend drives every once in a while.  In general, Nickeil Alexander-Walker put forth an adequate showing in his team’s win over Duke.  Though he struggled to make jumpers, he was able to contribute in every other facet of the game to help his team get the victory.

Duke’s 6-7 freshman swingman, R.J. Barrett played very well in his team’s loss to Virginia Tech.  After starting out slow, he had a tremendous second half as he really was able to get into a rhythm, and he nearly helped his team rally back in this game.  He did a great job of scoring off the dribble when he would take shots inside the arc.  Barrett can finish plays with either hand, and he also can use dribble moves to get past his defenders.  He was able to knock down floaters, and he also showed a knack for drawing fouls upon his defenders.  He was able to make a pull-up, long two, and he has good agility, balance, and scoring touch to make numerous shots in the paint.  Adding to that, Barrett was able to use a side step move to score in transition, and he also managed to score on a quick put back after getting an offensive rebound.

However, he struggled to knock down threes when he would hoist them up from beyond the arc.  Barrett took plenty of them in the first half, and in this game, he did make an open spot-up three.  However, he tended to miss them whether if he would take them off the catch or dribble from long range.  Also, Barrett displayed solid playmaking skills.  He did a good job of finding open shooters to set up scores for his teammates, and he also tended to throw solid interior passes.  He was able to find a roll man to help his teammate score on an alley-oop dunk, and he also found a cutter to notch an assist another time.  But sometimes, he can tend to throw hasty passes, and he had one that was intercepted as he quickly tried to kick it out to a shooter once.

He also was able to haul in his fair share of boards, as he would leap up to get some defensive rebounds when he was on the floor.  Defensively, he looked to be fairly average.  Barrett was able to contest a couple of deep threes to force misses, and he also guarded a ball handler tightly to force a shot clock violation another time.  He also managed to poke a ball away to almost get a steal.  However, sometimes he would be late on his rotations, which would cause his teammates to commit fouls.  Also, he ended up fouling an opponent on a long two-point shot due to being too aggressive that time.

In summary, R.J. Barrett had a good showing in his team’s loss to Virginia Tech.  Though he struggled with his jump shot, he excelled at attacking the basket to get scores and free throws, and he also passed and handled the ball well in this game.  He was able to consistently get buckets in the second half to keep his team in it, and he is a very talented player that showed why he is widely considered to be a lock to be a top 3 pick in the upcoming draft.

For Duke’s 6-7 freshman forward Cam Reddish, it was a game of highs and lows for him.  He seemed to play fairly well from a statistical standpoint, as he was very efficient in making shots, and he also did a very good job of spacing the floor.  However, he also committed too many turnovers, and had an abundance of defensive lapses that plagued him in this game in his team’s loss to Virginia Tech.

Reddish shot the ball well to help his team on offense.  He showed a knack for making spot-up threes, and he also did a good job of scoring on mid-range jumpers, as he can do so off the catch or dribble.  He also did a good job of scoring on off-ball motion plays.  He was able to run off of a screen to score on a cut, and he also drew free throws on a put back after attempting a reverse layup.  While he was able to draw a non-shooting foul on a left-handed drive to the hoop, Reddish missed a floater another time.  Sometimes, he has trouble getting all the way to the hoop, as he may end up missing shots in traffic.

However, he was entirely too turnover prone in this game.  For the positives, Reddish will pass the basketball to keep the ball moving, and he was able to find the open man to set up a couple of scoring chances for his teammates.  However, he also tended to dribble around for far too long, as he had a tendency to get balls poked away and off of him due to carelessness, and a failure to protect the basketball.  He also was called for traveling another time, and he also committed a charging foul on a right-handed drive in transition.  He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  Reddish would swoop in to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he would quickly beat his opponents to the ball to haul in rebounds due to possessing good athleticism, motor, and instincts to do so.

Defensively though, Reddish just did not play very well on that end of the floor.  For the positives, Reddish was able to poke a ball out of bounds to almost get a steal, and he also contested shots off of a cut and a pull-up mid-range shot on the break to force a couple of misses.  However, he had a tendency to be unfocused on that side of the ball, as he would sometimes sag way too far off of his man and be late to rotate, which would cause his team to allow scores on jumpers.  Midway through, there was even one play where he did not guard a single player, as his team ended up allowing an open mid-range basket.  Other times, he wouldn’t hustle back, which would cause his team to foul opponents on the break.  Also, he struggled to guard opponents off the dribble, and he also would bite on pump fakes, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, though Cam Reddish excelled as a shooter and scorer in this game against Virginia Tech, he will need to improve in the finer points of the game to help his team more on both ends of the court.  He often struggled with turnovers and his position defense, and his play seemed a bit lackadaisical at times.  Still, he is a very talented player, and he may still be a likely bet to go in the lottery in the 2019 draft.

Virginia Tech’s 6-10 junior big man, Kerry Blackshear put forth a good performance in his team’s win over Duke.  In this game, he excelled as a scorer and rebounder when he was on the floor.  He did a very good job of getting scores off of drives as well as in the post, and he also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  He also was able to use a pivot move to knock down a long two-point shot, but he was unable to make threes off of pick and pop plays.

He was a bit inaccurate with his passes though.  He tried often to find cutters from the high post, but he would throw his passes too hard that would sail out of bounds, and another ended up getting deflected by an opponent.  Blackshear did an adequate job of rebounding the basketball, and he would often leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor.  Sometimes, opponents would forget to box him out when he would haul in offensive boards.  But sometimes he himself would forget to block out, which would cause him to allow opponents to get some offensive rebounds.

However, he will need to improve defensively.  On one good play though, he was able to rotate to successfully challenge a shot off of a cut to force a tough miss.  However, he tended to be late on his rotations, as he would be prone to fouling and allowing scores.  Other times, he would over-rotate, and he would not be in position to aptly contest shots from his opponents.  Overall, Kerry Blackshear had a solid showing, and he was able to score 23 points and nab 10 rebounds in his team’s victory over Duke.  He is an athletic, skilled big man that can score the basketball in a variety of ways, and he could end up being a second round pick in the upcoming draft.

Other Notes:

Virginia Tech’s 6-5 senior guard, Ahmed Hill excelled as a shooter and scorer on offense.  He did a very good job of scoring off the dribble, as he would score on aggressive drives as well as on pull-up, mid-range jumpers, and he also would draw fouls upon his opponents.  He also made a couple of spot-up threes, but he struggled to make them consistently from beyond the arc.

He also passed the ball well, and he tended to throw solid interior passes.  Hill can find teammates on the move, and he throws good passes off the dribble to set up scores for his teammates.   He did take too long to get his shot off once, and he was unable to do so early on, as it resulted in his team to commit a shot clock violation.  Defensively though, sometimes he had trouble guarding his man on the ball, as he would get beat on moves to the hoop, and he also would foul opponents due to over-aggressiveness.  Overall, Ahmed Hill had a good game, as he played well in his team’s win against Duke.  He is a skilled swingman that can knock down shots, and he could end up on an NBA team’s summer league roster this year.

Duke’s 6-11 junior center, Marques Bolden played fairly well in this game, and he was efficient in making shots from the field.  He would often score and draw free throws after looking to score from the post, as he was able to score on a dunk once, and he also scored on a tough turnaround jump hook in traffic.  He also did a good job of scoring on hustle plays, and he also was able to score on an alley-oop dunk after rolling to the rim to get the basketball.  Also, he attempted a mid-range shot from the left elbow, but missed that time.

Defensively, he looked to be fairly average.  Bolden was able to rotate to block a shot off of a drive, and he also would contest threes to force misses.  However, sometimes he had trouble guarding opponents out on the perimeter, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores.  Also, he did not grab many rebounds in this game, but he was able to haul in a board on each end of the floor.

Overall, Marques Bolden had an adequate showing in his team’s loss to Virginia Tech, and he is an athletic, energetic big man that can provide some inside scoring and shot blocking skills when he is on the floor.  On the other hand, he will need to expand upon his skill set offensively, improve his rebounding, and work on improving his perimeter defensive skills.  Right now, he may be a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft.

For Duke’s freshman point guard Tre Jones, he also did not play very well in his team’s loss to Virginia Tech.  It seems that teams in his conference have found his Achilles’ heel, and his major weakness is his inability to knock down jumpers in games, especially from medium to long distances.  Including this game here, in his past 3 games against North Carolina, Syracuse, and Virginia Tech, Tre Jones has made just 6 of 32 field goals, and despite having made one three in each of those games, he also has been just 3 of 17 on threes in that time span.

When Jones wasn’t missing jumpers, he was able to score on hustle plays around the basket.  He was able to score on a cut, he also made a speedy floater on a fast break drive, and he also managed to draw free throws on a tip-in.  However, Jones had trouble making spot-up threes, pull-up mid-range jumpers, and he also missed a floater on a half-court drive another time.

Though he displayed adequate playmaking skills, as Jones can make a variety of passes to set up scores for his teammates, he also was turnover prone against Virginia Tech.  Sometimes, he would throw inaccurate passes, as he threw a high pass that sailed too far which was intercepted, and he also threw an inaccurate pass on a dribble handoff attempt that also was picked off.  He also was called for traveling when attempting to score on a quick baseline drive, as the referees had instead waved off the basket.

Jones did grab plenty of rebounds, and he would crash the glass to help his team get boards on both ends of the floor.  Defensively, he looked to be about average.  He would poke balls away to nearly get steals, and he also deflected a pass out of bounds. However, he tended to commit fouls on opposing ball handlers, as he would be called for reaching in and for tripping his opponents.  He also sagged too far off his man another time, and ended up allowing his man to score on a three-point basket.

Overall, Tre Jones just did not play very well, and his inability to consistently knock down jumpers has been magnified recently due to Zion Williamson’s absence as a result of having sustained a knee injury against North Carolina.  Tre Jones will need to improve his ability to knock down jumpers in order to force defenders to play him more honestly.  He is a talented, but flawed prospect, and he will need to vastly improve his outside shot.  Right now, he may be a likely bet to go somewhere in the late first to the second round range, as he could end up being a similar player to former Philadelphia 76ers’ guard, Eric Snow in the NBA.

Virginia Tech’s 6-6 senior swingman, Ty Outlaw has quietly played well in a complementary role this season, and he continued to excel as he did a good job of making shots and throwing good passes to help his team get the win.  Outlaw showed a knack for making spot-up threes and mid-range jumpers, and he even ran off the ball to make an open baseline mid-range jumper once.  Plus, he will use pump fakes, and swing the ball to find the open to set up scoring chances for them. 

On the downside, he tended to commit fouls when going for boards or on the defensive end. On the bright side, he did successfully draw a charge on a drive in transition once to help his team defensively on that particular play.  Right now, Outlaw is an athletic, skilled basketball player that could project to be a shooting specialist at the next level, and he could end up being a good addition to an NBA team’s summer league roster.