Evaluating R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish in Day 1 of the Maui Invitational

November 20, 2018

by Alan Lu

Recently, I took the opportunity to watch Duke play against San Diego State in a Maui Invitational game.  This matchup featured several top prospects that will likely go in the first round in 2019, such as R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, and Jalen McDaniels.  Duke ended up winning handily as they dominated throughout the match, but it was still a fun contest to watch nevertheless due to seeing the immense talent level that was put on display.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared, as well as how their games may stack up in the NBA.

Duke’s 6-7 freshman swingman, R.J. Barrett played very well to lead his team to a double-digit victory over San Diego State, as he showed off versatile scoring skills, great athleticism, and he also excelled as a facilitator in this game.  As the competition to be the top pick for 2019 is heating up, Barrett stated a strong case with his all-around play in this match.  Barrett showed a good ability to knock down jump shots to space the floor for his team.  He showed a knack for making pull-up jumpers as well as spot-up threes from beyond the arc, and he excelled as a shooter on offense. 

Plus, he did a good job of getting scores off the dribble.  Barrett is a speedy player that has an elite first step to the hoop, and he can get scores and free throws on aggressive moves to the basket in the half court as well as in transition.  But sometimes, he can miss shots on drives due to rushing.  He also can score out of the post, as he managed to draw free throws off of a fadeaway jumper after setting up on the block.  Also, he can score off of hustle plays, as he managed to draw free throws on a put back, though he missed on one other occasion.

Also, he displayed solid playmaking skills.  Barrett showed off good patience and court vision, and he showed a knack for finding the open man to set up scores for his teammates.  He can kick the ball out to shooters off the dribble, as he would make timely passes throughout the contest.  His lone turnover was when he drove quickly on the beak only to commit a charging foul, as he went too fast and out of control that time.  Plus, Barrett also helped out on the boards, as he was able to get his fair share of rebounds to help Duke on the glass.

However, his defense was just about average in this game.  For the positives, Barrett managed to rip a ball away from an opponent after a rebound to force a turnover, and he can play passing lanes to get deflections.  Also, he was able to contest a mid-range shot to force a miss.  But he can tend to be foul prone, as he can be a bit undisciplined when defending his man, and he also bit on a pump fake to foul an opponent on the break to give a score and an extra free throw.  Sometimes, he may struggle to stay in front of his man off the dribble, and another time he over-helped to allow an opponent to score on a corner three.

In general, R.J. Barrett played very well as he knocked down jumpers, scored and obtained numerous free throws on aggressive drives to the hoop, was an active help defender, and he also showed off solid playmaking skills.  He excelled in virtually every facet of the game, and his strong play against San Diego State may help show why he is still a strong candidate to be the top pick of the upcoming draft.

Duke’s freshman forward, Zion Williamson had a good showing in his team’s win over San Diego State.  At first, he had a slow start as he faced double teams, and he also ran into some foul trouble in the first half, but then he really started to hit his stride afterwards as he played excellent basketball all-around in the second half.  Williamson showed an adequate ability to score on drives to the basket.  He struggled to score off the dribble consistently early on, as he was crowded by defenders, and was struggling to get all the way to the rim in traffic at first.  He did manage to use a spin move to score on a left-handed drive off the glass.  Later on, he was able to score on a windmill dunk after driving up court to score on the break.  He also did an adequate job of knocking down jumpers.  Williamson made a deep spot-up three off the catch from well beyond the arc, though he missed two other shots from long distance.  He also excelled as a scorer on hustle plays, as he managed to score off of a cut in traffic while getting an extra free throw, and he also score on a tip-in.

Also, he displayed decent playmaking skills.  Williamson is an unselfish player that can pass out of the post as well as kick the ball out to shooters off the dribble, and he made some passes off of drives due to possessing good balance, patience, and vision, but he did end up committing a couple of turnovers, as he ended up losing the ball on a put back attempt, and he also had a pass picked off when attempting to throw from the post once.  He also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  Williamson was quite active at crashing the glass on both ends of the floor, and he showed off great motor, athleticism, and instincts to get rebounds.  He can leap up to get boards in traffic, and he also saved a ball to a teammate to help his team get a defensive rebound on one play.

In addition, Williamson played strong defense in this game.  He did a great job of running in to jump passes to get steals, as he was able to generate fast breaks for his team.  He also managed to poke a ball away from behind to force a turnover.  Plus, Williamson also possesses great leaping ability and timing, as he managed to block a couple of shots around the basket to force misses.  However, he also can be a bit foul prone at times, as he can be over-aggressive when defending opponents out on the perimeter.

In summary, Zion Williamson had another solid showing in his team’s win over San Diego State.  He didn’t dominate nearly to the extent as he had in all of the other previous outings, but his impact was still felt nonetheless, as he made a plethora of very solid plays in the second half, as his finest one was when he jumped a pass to get a steal and then drove up court to score on a windmill dunk off of a breakaway.  Williamson is a really good prospect as he has a unique set of skills combined with having great athletic abilities that could make him the top pick in 2019.

Cam Reddish quietly had a solid game in his team’s win over San Diego State.  He excelled as a shooter and scorer when he was on the floor, and he also played unselfishly and was active defensively in this match.  Reddish did a very good job of knocking down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  He can make threes off the catch or dribble, as he used a step back move to knock down a pull-up three, and he also made a corner three as well.  He also used a spin move to make a pull-up mid-range jumper from around the left elbow.

Plus, he also showed a gifted ability to get scores off the dribble.  Reddish managed to score on an acrobatic reverse layup off of a drive once.  Another time, he scored on a fadeaway scoop shot while getting an extra free throw.  Reddish can score using either hand, and he also will take on the contact to draw fouls upon the opposition.  In addition, he also managed to score on a nice acrobatic reverse layup after getting the ball on a backdoor cut later on in this contest.

Also, he displayed decent playmaking skills.  Reddish is an unselfish player that will make the extra pass to keep the ball moving, and he will look to find the open man.  He also can kick the ball out to shooters to set up scores for his teammates.  But he did commit a couple of turnovers due to carelessness.  He committed a charging foul after lowering his shoulder on a drive once.  Another time, he threw a hasty, inaccurate interior pass that ended up getting intercepted by a defender.  Though he didn’t grab many rebounds when he was on the floor, he did manage to leap up to get a couple of defensive boards in this game.

Reddish also played adequate defense.  He is an active defender that can bring heavy ball pressure, and he was able to deflect a pass and poke a ball away to almost get steals for his team.  However, Reddish also gave up too much space to allow his man to score on a corner three once.  Overall, Cameron Reddish played well as he excelled as a shooter and scorer against San Diego State.  He made a variety of shots, and he took smart shots, as he didn’t force up anything bad when he was on the court.  He is a player that has a very good feel for the game, and he looks to be a solid bet to go in the top 5 on draft day.

For San Diego State’s Jalen McDaniels, his performance was a mixed bag.  He showed some good things when he was on the floor, as he is a very athletic combo forward that can pass and handle the basketball, and he also is an active interior defender that excels at blocking shots.  However, he did not show much of an inclination to shoot jumpers and he struggled when he would look to do so, and he also struggled with his position defense at times.

McDaniels showed a fairly good ability to get scores off the dribble.  He is an agile player that can get where he needs to go on the floor.  On one play, he used a nice crossover to score on a runner off the glass.  Another time, he used a spin move to get a score around the basket.  Plus, he generally excelled as a scorer on drives in transition, and his foot speed allows him to draw fouls upon his opponents.  He also used a pump fake to get a score and a free throw once on the break.  However, sometimes he can be prone to misses around the basket, as he can play too wildly on occasion, and he can tend to rush his shots.  He also struggled to knock down jumpers, as he had trouble connecting from the high post or from a mid-range distance in this game against Duke.

Plus, he displayed adequate playmaking skills.  McDaniels can pass off the dribble as well as from the post, and he even threw a nifty behind the back pass to a shooter to set up a score once.  He also handles the ball well, especially for a player his size, but sometimes, he can be careless on offense, as he did commit several turnovers.  He can be prone to throwing ill-advised passes that can be intercepted, and he also had a ball poked away after getting a defensive rebound another time to lose the basketball.  However, McDaniels was only average at best as a rebounder in this game.  He wasn’t too active on the glass, though he did manage to get some defensive boards, and even pushed the pace off of one defensive rebound once.

Though he excelled as a shot blocker, his position defense could use some improvement.  McDaniels did show a knack for swatting shots on drives when he is defending in the paint, as he possesses very good length, athleticism, and timing to do so.  However, he can tend to be undisciplined defensively.  He once bit on a pump fake, allowing his man to drive by him and forcing an opponent to rotate to commit a foul around the basket.  On a separate play, he was over-aggressive in trying to jump the pass, and committed a reach-in foul on a loose ball when on the ground.  He also struggled to stay with a man on a drive, and ended up fouling him on a separate occurrence.  He also struggled to guard shooters as he would give up too much space and go under screens, causing him to allow mid-range baskets to the opposition.

Overall, Jalen McDaniels is a talented prospect that may still have ways to go as an overall player.  He is a lanky big man that runs the floor very well and can block shots, but he will need to improve his jump shot significantly, as well as his position defense.  McDaniels’ lacks of assertiveness on the offense combined with his defensive lapses were disappointing, but McDaniels does possess some skills that could intrigue NBA teams.  Right now, McDaniels may project to go in the late first to the second round range on draft day, as his game could be similar to that of current Golden State Warriors’ center, Kevon Looney.  If McDaniels can continue to improve as an overall player, he could end up being a reliable role player in the NBA.

Duke’s freshman point guard, Tre Jones excelled at attacking the basket to get points and assists for his team.  He did a good job of scoring on floaters off the dribble, and he can knock down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  Also, he was able to score after making a nice cut to the hoop once.  Plus, Jones excelled as a facilitator on offense.  He showed good vision as he can throw accurate long passes on the break, and he can make timely passes on the move to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  He did commit a couple of turnovers, as he was called for a charging foul on a drive early on, and he also had a pass picked off another time, but generally Jones did a good job of making plays on the court.

In addition, he also played adequate defense, as he managed to jump on a loose ball to get a steal in this game.  Overall, Tre Jones put forth a solid performance to help his team get a double-digit victory, and he is a reliable game manager that can make a variety of plays on offense to help lead his team to get wins.  Right now, he would be a solid value pick for a team in the late first to the second round range, as he could end up being a good role player in the association.

Jeremy Hemsley is an athletic, 6-3 senior combo guard that plays for San Diego State, and he showed some impressive skills despite having his ups and downs against Duke.  For most of the way, he was playing well, as he is a good athlete that showed a knack for scoring on strong, aggressive moves to the hoop off drives in the half-court as well as in transition, and he even threw down an emphatic two-handed jam off of one drive to the rack.

He also was able to make a long two from the corner, but Hemsley struggled to knock down threes from beyond the arc.  Also, he was a bit turnover prone, as he can be prone to traveling off of drives, and he also threw an ill-advised pass on the break another time.  Also, Hemsley showed a decent ability to get rebounds, as he would leap up to get defensive boards.  Defensively, Hemsley looked to be about average.  Hemsley also will actively look to contest shots off of drives, and he also managed to deflect a pass to almost get a steal, but he would get caught ball watching, as he was late to rotate to allow an opponent to score on a three, and he also got beat on a cut another time.

Overall, Jeremy Hemsley is an athletic, score-first combo guard that can make some solid plays above the rim, and he did a good job of getting scores off the dribble, but Hemsley also struggled wit his jump shot as well as with turnovers in this game.  He will need to continue to improve as an overall player, but he may have the skills to make an NBA team’s summer league roster either in 2019 or sometime down the road.

San Diego State’s 6-1 senior point guard, Devin Watson did a very good job of shooting and scoring the basketball, as he excelled at knocking down spot-up jumpers, especially from beyond the arc, and he also has a nifty floater that he can use to score off the dribble.  Plus, he also can draw fouls on aggressive right-handed drives to the rim.  He didn’t really stand out in the other areas, but he did show a knack for getting the ball out to shooters to set up scoring chances for them, though he also committed his fair share of turnovers.  Watson may not have great size or physical tools, but he is a smart, savvy point guard that made good decisions when he was on the floor, and his ability to make shots could allow him to make an NBA team’s summer league roster either in 2019 or sometime in the near future.