Assessing Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Jaylen Hoard

January 9, 2019

by Alan Lu

This time, I decided to take the opportunity to watch Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Duke take on Jaylen Hoard and Wake Forest.  Coming into this game, I knew that Duke would go on to win the match, and likely by double-digits, and after a fairly competitive first half, Duke ended up cruising to a comfortable victory.  This presented itself as my first time watching Jaylen Hoard play, and also to watch Duke’s players participate in this contest.  Here are my thoughts on how those players fared, as well as how their games may translate to the NBA.

Duke’s freshman forward, Zion Williamson put forth a magnificent performance, as he played well in all facets of the game to help lead his team to get a double-digit victory over Duke.  He excelled as a scorer off the dribble in the post, he did a terrific job of finishing plays above the rim, and he also knocked down three-point shots.  He also passed and handled the ball well, and showed off strong rebounding and solid defensive skills when he was on the floor.  Williamson did a great job of scoring on quick, strong drives to the hoop.  He handles the ball very well, especially for a player his size, and he would use dribble moves to often score on acrobatic layups.  He also excelled as a scorer in the post, as he would tend to catch high entry pass, and then proceed to score on strong moves to the basket.

He also showed a knack for making spot-up threes off the catch.  Williamson would take advantage whenever opponents would give him ample space to shoot the basketball, and he even moved off the ball to knock down a spot-up three on one occasion.  Though he has not shot nearly as well from beyond the arc on the season, it’s an encouraging sign that Williamson is showing improvement as a shooter on the floor.  He also showed a very good ability to score on hustle plays.  He runs the floor very well, and he would often leap up to score on thunderous alley-oop dunks.  He also was able to score on a quick, off-balanced drive in transition.  Adding to that, he also managed to run in to score on a quick put back after getting an offensive board on a separate play.

Plus, he also displayed good playmaking skills.  Williamson is a skilled passer and ball handler that has great court vision, and he tended to make timely reads when he was on the court.  He showed a knack for passing off the dribble to hit cutters to set up scores, and he also used a spin move to kick the ball out to a shooter to set up a score.  He also can throw long accurate passes, as he also notched an assist by throwing a crisp outlet pass to find a teammate on the break.  However, sometimes he would throw inaccurate passes as he would lead his teammates out too far on occasion, and he also stepped out of bounds when handling the ball another time.

Also, he was a chairman of the boards in this game against Wake Forest.  Williamson would tend to run in to haul in rebounds on both ends of the floor, and he would leap up to get a good number of them for his team in this contest.  In addition, Williamson also played good defense.  He did a terrific job of playing passing lanes, as he would often pick off passes to get steals, and he also dove on the ground to collect another to help his team.  Plus, he also managed to swat a shot off of a fast break drive to himself due to possessing great athleticism, timing, and instincts to do so.  He also showed fairly good footwork when applying ball pressure, and he would actively contest shots to force misses, but sometimes he can lose his focus on this end of the floor, as he can get caught ball watching, which make him prone to allowing scores off of cuts and in transition every once in a while.  Occasionally, he also can be undisciplined when guarding his man, as that can lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

In general, Zion Williamson had an outstanding showing, as he helped guide his team to a double-digit victory over Wake Forest.  He scored 30 points, made 3 threes, and also had 10 rebounds, 4 steals, and 1 block in his team’s victory.  He is a tremendous prospect that could project into being a perennial All-Star and a superstar in the NBA one day, and he looks to be the clear frontrunner to be the top pick for the upcoming draft.

Duke’s 6-7 freshman swingman, R.J. Barrett played very well in his team’s win over Wake Forest.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, gifted passing ability, and he also was able to make some defensive plays when he was on the court.  Barrett did a great job of scoring on smooth drives to the basket.  He is an agile, fleet footed player that handles the ball well, and he can garner scores using either hand.  He was able to get an extra free throw after scoring once on a left-handed drive, and he also managed to score on a nifty reverse layup.  Plus, he showed a penchant for getting to the foul line as he managed to draw lots of free throws to help his team.  Sometimes, he would miss on floaters, but generally Barrett really excelled as a driver in this game.

He also excelled at scoring off of cuts.  Barrett was able to throw down an emphatic jam off of a cut, and he also managed to score on another backdoor cut to the hoop.  He did miss on one occasion, but he may have done so due to rushing his shot.  Plus, he showed a good ability to knock down threes to space the floor on offense.  Barrett was able to make a corner three, and he also made a really nice three-pointer another time by using a crossover, step back move to swiftly make a long-range jumper off the dribble.  He was a bit streaky from beyond the arc, but Barrett showed that he can make shots in a variety of ways, and that he can get any shot he wants on the floor.

Also, he showed off solid playmaking skills in this game.  He did a terrific job of throwing drop off passes off of drives to set up numerous scoring chances for his teammates, and he also threw a crisp lob pass to set up an alley-oop dunk.  Barrett played very unselfishly as he displayed very good court vision, and he continually made good passes throughout the game.  But he did commit his fair share of turnovers, though.  He had the ball poked away from him when looking to create off the dribble on a couple of occasions, and he also was called for a traveling violation.  Late in the game, he was called for committing a charging foul just prior to throwing an accurate lob to a teammate on the break, though that call may have been rather questionable.

Though he didn’t grab many rebounds in this game, Barrett managed to run down a ball to get a defensive rebound on one play.  He also played decent defense.  He was able to quickly poke a ball away from an opponent to almost get a steal, and he also contested a shot in the post to force a miss another time, but sometimes he would give up too much space to his man, which would cause him to allow opponents to score on jumpers.  In summary, R.J. Barrett put forth a strong performance in his team’s win over Wake Forest.  He really excelled as a shooter and scorer when he was on the floor, and he may be a likely top 5 pick in the upcoming draft due to his ability to put the ball in the hoop, and he could end up being  a multi-All-Star at the next level.

Wake Forest’s 6-8 freshman forward, Jaylen Hoard had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Duke.  Though he did not shoot the ball well and struggled with turnovers, Hoard excelled as an inside scorer and rebounder when he was on the floor, and he is a high motor player that will compete on every possession.  Hoard did a good job of scoring on aggressive drives to the hoop.  He has a quick first step off the dribble, and he would tend to draw fouls on his opponents.  He also managed to score on a pull-up, mid-range jumper after dribbling to his left once.  But sometimes, he would miss shots when looking to take it to the rack, as he would not always have his shooting touch or balance.

On the other hand, he struggled to knock down threes from beyond the arc.  Hoard is not a very good outside shooter as he has struggled with his three-point shot all year long, and some of his misses looked pretty bad in this game.  He will need to improve his jump shot significantly, as that could open up for the rest of his offensive game moving forward.  He also can score on hustle plays.  Hoard was able to score on a put back after dribbling to the rim to get there, but he missed on two other occasions due to rushing his shots.  Hoard also was able to score on a quick cut to the hoop while drawing an extra free throw simultaneously.  Late in the game, he ran the floor and caught a lob pass to score on a scintillating alley-oop dunk.

However, he was quite turnover prone in this game.  For the positives, Hoard was able to throw a long outlet pass to set up a scoring chance for a teammate on the break, and he also set a screen that enabled a teammate to score on a jump shot another time.  On the down side, he tended to commit turnovers off the dribble.  He was called for a charging foul on a drive once.  Later, he caught the ball in the post, but the opponent used a pull out the chair move, causing Hoard to slip and fall down as he lost the basketball.

He did a great job of rebounding the basketball.  Hoard was able to make some impressive rebounds in this contest, as he would fly in to get offensive boards, and he also managed to run down another ball to get one due to possessing a very good motor and ball location skills.  He also dove on the ground to get a defensive board, and he also showed a knack for leaping up to haul in defensive rebounds when he was on the floor.  On the other hand, he struggled defensively.  Hoard was not too noticeable on this end, but there was one play where he sagged too far off his man, and he ended up allowing his opponent to score on an open three-point shot.  Another time, he ended up getting beat off the dribble to allow another basket to his man.

Overall, Jaylen Hoard is an athletic, energetic player that could project to be a defensive specialist in the NBA.  He plays hard, he is a good scorer off the dribble, and he is a terrific rebounder for a player his size.  If he can improve his jump shot and play lock down defense, could end up finding a niche as a reliable role player at the next level.  Right now, he may be a similar player to Brooklyn Nets’ forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, and he could end up getting drafted in the late first to the second round range by a team in the association.

Duke’s 6-7 freshman swingman, Cam Reddish had an up and down game in his team’s win over Wake Forest, though he did play significantly better than the last time I saw him play against Texas Tech.  Reddish did a good job of attacking the basket to garner scores when he would look to do so.  He is a good athlete that handles the ball well, and he was able to score on an emphatic dunk off of a quick baseline drive.  He also ran the floor to score as a trailer in transition.  He was inconsistent in knocking down threes though, but he seemed to do a decent job of knocking spot-up threes off the catch.  He did attempt a pull-up three, but he missed that time after taking one off the dribble.

On the other hand, he was about average as a playmaker in this game.  For the positives, he was able to throw a nifty behind the back pass to a teammate to set up a score in transition, and he also threw a solid entry pass to set up a score for another player in the post.  Reddish can hit cutters, and he also can kick the ball out to shooters off the dribble.  However, sometimes he would lose the ball and get it poked away by a defender when handling it, and he also slipped to commit a traveling violation another time.  Late in the game, he was trapped in the corner in the back court, and he had a pass picked off by a defender.

Though he didn’t grab many rebounds, he managed to haul in a couple of defensive boards, and he would look to push the ball up the floor.  However, he was called for committing a foul on a put back once after allowing an opponent to get an offensive rebound on one play.  Reddish also played good defense.  He managed to block a shot off of a drive to a teammate due to possessing good athleticism, footwork, and timing, and he also contested another shot off of a drive to force a miss.  He also will contest jumpers, and he will actively play passing lanes.  However, sometimes he can be too aggressive defensively, which can lead him to commit fouls, and sometimes he will close out too hard, as he ended up allowing a couple of scores and extra free throws on some of the plays.

Overall, Cam Reddish had his ups and downs, but he seemed to play better as the game wore on.  He is starting to find his shooting touch after struggling against Texas Tech.  He still has not seemed to put his skills altogether, but he could end up being a good player in the NBA if he can do so, as he may project to be a solid complementary player in the league.

Duke’s freshman point guard, Tre Jones quietly played well in his team’s win over Wake Forest.  He excelled as a facilitator when he was on the floor, and he can hit cutters and throw nice touch passes due to possessing very good court vision.  He also ran the floor to score a couple of times in transition, but he struggled with his jump shot.  He also played good defense.  He was able to jump a pass quickly to almost get a steal before losing it out of bounds, and he also contested a three to force a miss.  Also, he managed to successfully draw a charge when defending an opposing ball handler.  On the other hand, he can be too aggressive at times, as he may commit fouls when applying ball pressure or guarding shooters.  In summary, Tre Jones did a good job of running the team, and he also played good defense.  He could project to be a reliable role player in the NBA, but he will need to improve his jump shot.  Right now, he may project to be a late first round pick on draft day.

Junior center Marques Bolden played very well in Duke’s double-digit win over Wake Forest, as he showed off solid low post scoring skills, motor, and he also played terrific defense in this game.  He excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  He was able to score off of a tip dunk, and he also used a pump fake to draw free throws on a put back another time.  Plus, Bolden was able to score on quick rolls to the rim.  Also, Bolden showed off very good low post scoring skills.  He used a nice spin move to score on a jump hook due to possessing quality footwork, post moves, and scoring touch, and he also scored another time after catching a high pass around the basket.

He also showed off above average playmaking skills in this game.  Bolden also threw an accurate interior pass to notch an assist on offense, but he was also called for stepping out of bounds after catching the ball on a separate play.  He also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, as he would haul in numerous boards on both ends of the floor, and he also would provide second chance points to help his team.

In addition, Bolden played very good defense.  He is an instinctive player that excels at blocking shots, and he was able to swat a couple inside the paint to prevent opponents from getting easy shots off.  He also poked a ball off of an opponent to get a steal, and he also showed a knack for deflecting passes.  Plus, he also would contest shots to force plenty of misses.  But sometimes he would be too aggressive at times, as he would commit fouls when defending opponents around the basket at times.

All in all, Marques Bolden had a solid showing, and he was a major contributor in his team’s win over Wake Forest.  He played the game with great energy, excelled as an inside scorer, rebounder, and interior defender, and he also made a good pass to notch an assist.  Bolden has been having a good junior season, and if he keeps playing well, he could end up being a second round pick, as he may project to be a defensive specialist in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Jack White did a great job of blocking shots, and he played really good defense in this game.  He had very good timing to contest and alter shots to force misses, and he also threw accurate long passes to notch assists.

Javin DeLaurier excelled as a scorer on off-ball motion plays, as he can score on cuts and rolls, and he also scored on an emphatic jam off of a cut.  He rebounded the ball well and also did a very good job defensively, and he was able to swat a couple of shots inside the paint to help his team.

Wake Forest’s 6-0 junior guard, Brandon Childress seemed to play the best among Wake Forest players not named Jaylen Hoard, and he was able to make a couple of tough pull-up threes, including one where he drew an extra free throw on the play afterwards.  He struggled more to score off the dribble inside the arc, but he was able to score on a tough, fallaway layup on a drive in traffic once.  Childress may not be an elite athlete, but he is a skilled player that could project to be a microwave type of scorer in the NBA.