Evaluating Luke Maye, R.J. Barrett, and Cam Reddish

February 20, 2019

by Alan Lu

This was a highly anticipated matchup, as I saw this game to watch Zion Williamson and Duke take on North Carolina in an ACC basketball rivalry game.   Unfortunately, Zion Williamson planted his foot too hard, burst his shoe, and injured his knee in the opening minute of this contest, and ended up missing the rest of this match.  His teammates tried to take on the mantle, and R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish had fairly good games, but they were no match for Luke Maye or North Carolina.  This was not the most well played game, as there were lots of missed shots and turnovers, but Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson used their veteran savvy, smarts, and skills to lead their team to victory.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared, as well as how their skills may translate to the NBA.

North Carolina’s 6-8 senior forward, Luke Maye had a terrific showing in his team’s win over Duke.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, he was a chairman of the boards in this game, and he had a strong all-around game as he scored 30 points and notched 15 boards to help lead his team to a double-digit victory.  Maye is a smart, high-motor player that can score in a variety of ways.  He is a strong, physical big man that would often back down his man in the post to get deep position, and he would use pivot moves and drop steps to often get scores around the basket.  He also did a good job of scoring on cuts and rolls to the rim due to possessing a terrific motor, and he also can drive past opponents from the high post to get additional scores.  Plus, he also was able to make a corner three and a mid-range shot to show his range and ability to space the floor on offense.

He also passed the ball well, as he displayed good court vision to get the ball to his teammates in a variety of ways, as he can find open shooters and cutters to get assists.  Also, Maye did a tremendous job of rebounding the basketball, and he would constantly outwork his opponents on the glass due to his extreme competitiveness, motor, and having strong ball location skills.  Plus, Maye played solid defense.  He would jump on loose balls to get steals, and he would alter shots inside the arc to force misses.  Maye will challenge threes and drives, as he was able to get his opponents to miss numerous shots in this game.

In general, Luke Maye played very well, and he had a magnificent all-around game in his team’s win over Duke.  He was a major reason why his team won by double digits, and he is a high motor, energetic basketball player that could end up being a second round pick, as he may be a similar player to former Boston Celtics’ forward, Brian Scalabrine in the NBA.

Duke’s 6-7 freshman forward, R.J. Barrett had a solid game in his team’s loss to North Carolina.  He excelled at attacking the basket to garner scores, made some good passes on offense, rebounded the ball very well, and he also was able to make some nice defensive plays when he was on the court.  Barrett showed a good ability to score on quick, aggressive drives to the hoop from the half court as well as in transition, and he especially excelled when going to his left.  He has a nice hesitation move that he can use to get past defenders, and he also was able to use a Euro-step to draw free throws on a drive in transition another time.  Also, he was able to score on a put back after getting an offensive rebound.

Plus, Barrett was able to make several threes, as he can do so off the catch or dribble, but he also missed plenty of them, as he was quite streaky with his jump shot from beyond the arc, and had struggled to knock those down in the first half.  He also displayed decent playmaking skills.  Barrett possesses adequate court vision, and he can throw some nice passes by kicking the ball out to shooters off the dribble to set up scoring chances for them.  However, he tended to commit too many turnovers, as he can be inaccurate with his passes, and he also had balls poked away due to putting on blinders, and not knowing how close his opponents were next to him.

Barrett did a great job of rebounding the basketball.  He would often come away with defensive boards, as he would spring up to get them, and he also was quite active on the offensive glass.  He also played adequate defense.  Barrett was able to block a shot off of a drive, and he also contested a pull-up mid-range jumper to force a miss.  But sometimes Barrett would give up too much space to his man, and he also had some trouble guarding Cameron Johnson on jumpers, as he would be prone to allowing opponents to score on them.

Overall, R.J. Barrett played well in his team’s loss to North Carolina.  His play was rather inconsistent in the first half, but he seemed to play better as the game wore on.  That was not enough as his team lost by double digits, but Barrett was able to play well in many different areas on this day.  Barrett is an athletic, skilled scorer that can quickly get buckets, and he also is a very good rebounder that can make plays on both ends of the floor.  His shot selection can be spotty at times, but overall, he had a good showing, and right now, he looks to be a solid candidate to be a top 5 pick for the upcoming draft.

Duke’s 6-7 freshman swingman, Cam Reddish also had a good game in his team’s loss to North Carolina.  He showed a knack for getting buckets when he was on offense, and he also made a slew of solid defensive plays.  Reddish did a good job of getting scores on aggressive drives to the hoop.  He was able to use a spin move to score once while drawing an extra free throw, and Reddish is a smooth scorer that can draw fouls upon opposing defenders.  He has a solid first step and can find his way to get to the basket, but sometimes he would miss tough shots in traffic.

He also showed a decent ability to knock down jumpers.  Reddish was able to make threes both off the catch and dribble, and he was able to use a jab step to knock down a quick pull-up three once.  He has a quick release on his jump shot, as he can get his shot off before defenders can get to it.  Reddish can be quite turnover prone though.  Sometimes, he would tend to try to overtly force the issue, which led him to throw some inaccurate passes, and he also committed a charging foul on a drive in transition.  He also has fairly good court vision and is a good ball handler though, and he can find open shooters to set up scoring chances for them.

Though he didn’t get many rebounds overall, Reddish would leap up to collect several defensive boards when he was on the floor.  He also played fairly good defense.  Reddish was able to block a three-point shot, and he also intercepted a pass in the backcourt due to possessing good agility, leaping ability, and timing, and he also poked a ball away to almost force another turnover.   He also will look to contest shots off the dribble, but sometimes he can struggle to guard his man, which can lead him to allow scores.

In summary, Cam Reddish had a solid showing, and he played much better in the second half as the game wore on in his team’s loss to North Carolina.  He has a solid set of all-around skills, and he can be a difference maker in games when he is focused.  Reddish excelled as a scorer and defender in this game, and he is a player that currently projects to go in the lottery on draft day.

North Carolina’s senior forward, Cameron Johnson put forth a strong performance in his team’s win over Duke.  Johnson scored 26 points, and had 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, as he played very well and showed off solid all-around skills to help get his team a double-digit victory.  Johnson excelled at attacking the basket to garner scores in this game.  He did a good job of scoring on smooth drives to the basket, and he also did a good job of scoring on hustle plays, as well as on mid-range jumpers.  He showed a knack for scoring when he would take shots inside the arc, but he was unable to make a three-point basket in this game.

He also displayed good playmaking skills.  Johnson can kick the ball out to shooters to set up scoring chances for his teammates, and he also showed some deft ball handling skills in this game.  He also did not commit a single turnover, though there was one play where he dribbled in the backcourt for too long, which led his team to commit a ten-second violation.  He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball, as he was quite active on the glass, especially on the defensive end.  Johnson also played very good defense.  He was able to intercept passes to get steals, and he would actively challenge shots off of drives to force misses due to possessing good length, instincts, and timing to do so.  Also, he was able to successfully draw a charge.  He did commit several fouls, as he can be prone to be called for reaching in at times.   

Overall, Cameron Johnson played very well, as he had a strong all-around game in his team’s win over Duke.  He is a tall, athletic forward that can play multiple positions, and he can help his team in numerous ways.  At the next level, he may project into a 3 and D role, and even so, he is a smart, skilled basketball player that could end up being a good find for a team in the late first to the second round range on draft day.

North Carolina’s freshman combo guard, Coby White made some solid plays at various times of this game, but overall, he just did not have a very good game in his team’s win against Duke.  When he was on his game, White did show that he can make a variety of shots, and he can be an athletic, fleet-footed playmaker when focused, he also rebounded the ball well, and blocked a couple of shots.  However, he often missed too many field goals, and committed far too many turnovers.  He had a tendency for getting his shots blocked far too often as he would force up bad shots, and he also would tend to get balls poked away.   White will need to play more under control and make smarter decisions with the basketball.  Right now, he may project to go in the late first round, as he has had a good season overall this year, and could profile to play either backcourt position due to his versatility.

Duke’s freshman point guard, Tre Jones just did not play very well in this game, as he really struggled to make shots on offense.  Though he passes and handles the ball well and tends to make strong reads on offense, Jones is a poor shooter that often would miss jumpers, and opponents could sag off of him and dare him to shoot the basketball. 

On the plus side, Jones did make a corner three, but that was his only made field goal of the night, and he tended to miss far too many shots when spotting up or looking to score off the dribble.  He did play fairly good defense, as he can poke balls away and intercept passes to get steals, but would get called for committing reach-in fouls as well.  Right now, the glaring weakness in Tre Jones’ game is that he has trouble knocking down jumpers, and NBA defenses can really expose that at the next level.  Still, Jones’ playmaking, defensive skills, and basketball IQ will likely allow him to be a backup in the NBA, and he could end up being a late first round pick in 2019, but his ceiling may be limited to that if he does not improve his jump shot.

For North Carolina’s 6-6 freshman guard Nassir Little, this was not a memorable performance for him as he was virtually a non-factor in his team’s win over Duke.  He did a show an adequate ability to knock down mid-range jumpers, and on one play, he drove to the hoop, pulled up, pivoted, and made a turnaround bank shot off the glass from just inside the free throw line area.  He missed a mid-range shot another time, and he also threw up an airball after posting up on a separate play. 

Also, he was quite turnover prone, as he had trouble making some passes or protecting the basketball, but overall he did not have much of an impact, if any on this match.  Little is an athletic swingman that can make mid-range jumpers, but he will need to be a more efficient player on the floor, and he will have to play smarter in games.  Right now, he may not be as polished a prospect as anticipated, but his draft stock still suggests that an NBA team may take him in the mid to late first round due to his performances in high school games and perceived upside.