Observing Zion Williamson, Tyus Battle, and R.J. Barrett

January 14, 2019

by Alan Lu

Recently, I took the time to watch Zion Williamson and Duke play against Syracuse in an ACC basketball game.  Early on, Duke jumped out to a 12-0 lead, and appeared to be headed for a rout and an easy win.  But alas, things did not turn out that way.  Tre Jones ended up injuring his shoulder after colliding into Frank Howard on a loose ball shortly afterwards, and Duke struggled in his absence as Jones missed the rest of the game.  What later happened was that Syracuse played much better and turned it into an interesting event before winning in overtime.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared in this game, as well as how their skills may translate to the NBA.

Duke’s freshman forward, Zion Williamson had a very good showing in his team’s loss to Syracuse.  He did a great job of attacking the basket to garner scores, and he also rebounded the ball very well.  Plus, he also showed off good ball handling skills, and also made some solid defensive plays when he was on the floor.  He did a very good job of scoring in the post.  Williamson is a very powerful player that has solid balance and footwork, and he would use pivot moves and drop steps to get scores around the basket.   Plus, he would often go up strong to draw numerous fouls on his opponents, and Williamson would often get to the free throw line.  He didn’t miss often, but occasionally would do so due to rushing his shots at times.

He also excelled as a scorer off the dribble.  Williamson has a quick first step to the hoop, and he was able to score on a speedy drive in transition while getting an extra free throw.  Another time he used ball fakes to score on a reverse layup off the glass on a half-court drive.  Also, he did a very good job of scoring on hustle plays.  He managed to throw down a thunderous put back dunk while getting an extra free throw early on, and he also scored on a reverse layup off of a put back.  Plus, he also managed to score on a backdoor cut to the hoop.

He also showed off the ability to knock down jumpers.  Williamson used a jab step to score on a mid-range shot once, and he also even made a three-pointer from the top of the key another time.  However, he struggled more when attempting threes, and he still has trouble making shots consistently when he takes them from beyond the arc.

As a playmaker, he looked to be fairly average.  Williamson didn’t look to pass often, but he can get the ball to shooters when he does so, and on one play, he used a spin move out of the post to kick the ball out to a teammate.  He also is a good ball handler, especially for a player his size.  However, he can careless on offense at times, as he committing a charging foul on a drive that led to one turnover, and he also stepped out of bounds after grabbing an offensive rebound.  On another possession, he didn’t get a clean entry pass, and ended up losing it out of bounds as he was unable to fully possess the basketball.

He also did an adequate job of rebounding the basketball.  Williamson was quite active at hauling in boards on both ends of the floor, and he would sometimes push the ball up the court after getting defensive rebounds for his team.  Also, he showed off decent defensive skills.  Williamson excelled as a help defender when he was on the court, and he did a great job of blocking shots off of drives to help his team protect the paint.  He even ran back once to make a chase down block on a drive in transition to a teammate due to possessing great leaping ability and timing.  Plus, Williamson also managed to intercept a pass that was thrown right to him to get a steal.  He also was able to contest a three to force a miss.

However, he tended to sag too far off his man and over-help in the paint, which would cause him to allow opponents to score on three-point shots.  Another time, he ended up getting beat off the dribble to allow a score.  On a separate play, he was called for committing a foul in the post.  In general, Zion Williamson put forth a solid performance, as he ended up scoring 35 points and hauling in 10 rebounds in his team’s loss to Syracuse.  He is a tremendously athletic, combination forward that can attack the rim at will to garner scores, and he also is a good rebounder and defender.  But sometimes he can be turnover prone, and he also can have lapses defensively.  Still, he is a terrific prospect that will likely be the top pick in the upcoming draft, as he could end up being a superstar in the NBA.

Syracuse’s 6-6 junior swingman, Tyus Battle played very well to help lift his team to a surprising overtime victory over Duke.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, made some solid passes and grabbed some tough rebounds, and he also helped out defensively in this game.  Battle did a great job of scoring on strong drives in transition.  He has a quick first step to the hoop, and he would often go left to get scores on fast breaks.  He was able to score on an emphatic, two-handed jam on the break once, and he also drew lots of fouls on his defenders.  Plus, Battle showed a knack for knocking down pull-up mid-range jumpers, and he has a nifty step back move that he can use which allows him to create separation between himself and his defender.

He struggled more to score on half-court drives or threes, though.  Battle was able to score on a floater, and he scored another time quickly on a right-handed drive off the glass.  However, he tended to miss on floaters, and he also had a couple of shots blocked due to rushing.  Battle did make a quick trail three in transition.  He also used a crossover move that made an opponent fall, but he missed on a pull-up three, and he tended to miss more when attempting long-range jumpers from beyond the arc.

Also, Battle displayed adequate playmaking skills.  He possesses good court vision, and he can find the open man to set up scores for them.  He was able to throw a solid interior pass off of a drive, and he also threw a nifty behind-the-back pass back to a shooter in transition to set up another scoring chance, but sometimes, he can play too recklessly, which can lead him to commit turnovers.  He fell on a drive that caused him to commit a traveling violation.  Another time, he was called for committing a charging foul on a speedy drive in transition.

He also showed a decent ability to rebound the basketball.  Battle was able to get some tough rebounds when he was on the floor.  He was able to chase down a ball to get a defensive board, and he also leapt up to get a tough, one-handed defensive rebound another time.  Though he would only sporadically get rebounds, Battle showed that he can get the tough boards when his team would need him to do so.

Also, he exhibited fairly average defensive skills.  Battle was able to intercept a pass late in the game to get a steal, and he also contested a three to force a miss.  However, he would tend to sag too far off his man to allow opponents to score on three-point shots, and on one play, he did not even contest a shot when guarding an opponent’s corner three attempt.  On a separate play, he ended up getting beat off the dribble to allow a score.

In summary, Tyus Battle had a good showing as he generally shot the ball well, and put on the points early and often to help get his team an upset win over Duke.  He did rush his shots at times which would lead to misses, but generally Battle showed off a very good ability to get his own shot off and to score the basketball, which can help him at the next level.  Right now, he may be a mid to late first round prospect, as his ability to get buckets could enable him to end up being a good player at the next level.

Duke’s 6-7 freshman swingman, R.J. Barrett had an up and down game in his team’s loss to Syracuse.  He played well early on, and he nearly had a triple-double, but he really struggled with his jump shot as the game wore on.  Barrett did a good job of scoring on fast break drives to the basket.  He is a very fast player that can really get down the court and he also handles the ball well.  He was able to score on a high-flying jam off of a drive in transition, and he also used a nifty hesitation move to score on a layup another time while getting an extra free throw.  But sometimes he would miss on runners in traffic, as he can tend to rush his shots and play a bit too out of control on occasion.

However, he struggled to consistently score on three-pointers or on half-court drives to the hoop.  Barrett was able to make a handful of spot-up threes, but he also missed far too often from beyond the arc, as he had plenty of open threes that he took that ended up being misses, and he was unable to knock down a long-range jumper off the dribble.  He also struggled to knock down mid-range jumpers.

Also, Barrett showed off solid playmaking skills.  He tended to throw very good interior passes as he can find teammates on the move, and he would also swing the ball to open shooters to notch assists.  Barrett threw precise, pinpoint passes as he can hit cutters and throw accurate lob passes, and he also excelled as a passer off the dribble.  But sometimes, he would get his passes deflected.  He also threw a pass that ended up getting intercepted, which ended up being his lone turnover of the contest.  Another time, he threw a low, inaccurate entry pass in which his teammate was unable to fully possess before losing it out of bounds.  On other times in this match, Barrett tended to be a ball stopper, as he would have the ball in his hands for far too long, and at times, he had trouble making quick, timely decisions on the court.

Also, Barrett did a tremendous job of rebounding the basketball.  He was able to pull down some boards to help his team get offensive rebounds, and he would also leap up to get defensive boards, and he would push the ball up the floor after getting some of those rebounds.  He also would chase down balls to get extra rebounds to help his team.  Defensively, his effort seemed to waver, as he would occasionally make a solid play, but that was far too infrequent, and he tended to lose focus too often on this end of the floor.  For the positives, Barrett was able to contest threes to force a miss, and he even managed to block a three-point shot on one occasion.  He also managed to successfully draw a charge when defending a drive.

On the other hand, he tended to sag too far off his man, and he also went underneath a screen on one play, which would cause him to give up three-point baskets to the opposition.   Also, he ended up getting beat off the dribble when defending a drive in transition, as he ended up fouling an opponent to allow the other team to score on a three-point play at the rim.

Overall, R.J. Barrett had some good moments, and at times exhibited why he looks to be the favorite to be the second player taken in the 2019 draft, due to possessing great athletic gifts, terrific scoring ability and potential, and good all-around skills.  However, his shot selection was suspect, and he really struggled with his jump shot later in this game.  When the game was on the line, he seemed to fade into the background as he had trouble consistently scoring late in this contest.  Right now, Barrett will need to be a more efficient scorer on a consistent basis, and also give more effort defensively.  Still, he will probably end up being a top 5 pick regardless, as he could end up being a scorer at the next level in the mold of an Andrew Wiggins type of player in the NBA.

Duke’s freshman point guard, Tre Jones was having a great game early on before he ended up injuring his shoulder after colliding with Frank Howard on a loose ball, and although Jones managed to dive on the ground to get the steal, he ended up getting hurt and missed the rest of the game.  Duke was up 14-6 when Jones injured his shoulder, and they were -12 without him the rest of the way, as it was clear that they missed his presence on both ends of the floor.

Jones played terrific defense in this game.  He is a feisty, tenacious defender that has great footwork, and he will apply heavy ball pressure to make it difficult for his opponents to handle or pass the basketball.  Jones would poke balls away to get steals, and he also intercepted a pass to obtain another.  He also dove on the ground to jump on a loose ball to get his fourth steal in just six minutes prior to getting hurt.  He possesses very good lateral quickness, hand-eye coordination, agility, and instincts that enables him to force opponents to cough up the ball often to commit lots of turnovers.

Also, Jones displayed good playmaking skills.  He tended to throw crisp, long passes to help set up scoring chances for his teammates, and he also possesses very good court sense.  He did commit one turnover as he threw an inaccurate crosscourt pass that sailed out of bounds once, but generally Jones showed a solid ability to distribute the basketball and to get everyone involved on offense.  He also managed to score on a nifty reverse layup off of a drive in transition to show off his ability to attack the basket.  Jones also hoisted up a three-point shot once, but missed on his lone attempt from beyond the arc.

Overall, Tre Jones played very well in his short time on the floor, and early on, it appeared as if Duke would run away with the victory, as long as he would be healthy.  Unfortunately, he ended up injuring his shoulder after colliding with Frank Howard on a loose ball, and Jones ended up with the steal, but also having to miss the rest of the game. 

Duke struggled in his absence, and while his team had some very solid moments of effectiveness, overall, they had trouble defending opposing ball handlers without him, moving the ball, or knocking down jumpers consistently when Tre Jones was not in the game.  Tre Jones is a smart, skilled playmaker that may have a similar game to current Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard, Patrick Beverley.  Jones is a tremendous defender that can aptly run a team, but he will need to improve his jump shot, but even still, Jones could be a good value pick for a team in the NBA in the mid to late first round range on draft day.

Syracuse’s 6-8 sophomore forward, Oshae Brissett also had an up and down game in his team’s win over Duke.  He struggled to make consistently shots inside the arc, but he also excelled as a three-point shooter outside of it, and he also was able to get some rebounds and make some good defensive plays in this game.

Brissett did a very good job of knocking down jumpers to space the floor on offense.  He would often make spot-up threes off the catch, and he would move off the ball to get open on a couple of occasions to do so.  He struggled more when taking long two-point shots, but generally Brissett would take advantage of opponents whenever they would give him ample room to shoot the basketball.  He also flashed the ability to score on aggressive drives to the hoop.  Brissett was able to use a jab step to score on a floater, and he also drew free throws on another aggressive drive.  But sometimes he would get his shots blocked, as he would struggle to score in traffic on occasion. 

He also managed to catch a lob pass to score off of a cut, but he also missed on a layup after finding himself wide open underneath the hoop another time.  Brissett also posted up once and used a hop step move, but ended up missing the shot in traffic.  He also attempted to score in transition and on a put back, but missed those times, as he would not always have his balance when taking shots in the paint.

Brissett was a bit turnover prone in this game.  He did not seem to make any noteworthy passes, but he did generally handle the ball well against Duke.  However, he lost the handle on the ball to lose it out of bounds once, and he also can tend to throw lazy passes, as he had another that was intercepted.  Also, Brissett did an adequate job of rebounding the basketball.  He was active at hauling in boards on both ends of the floor, and he would leap up to get plenty of defensive rebounds in this game.

Defensively, he looked to be perhaps above average.  Brissett was able to block a three-point shot to force a miss, and he also can deflect passes to make it tough for his opponents to get their passes through.  But he also would commit touch fouls when defending in the paint, and he also sagged too far off his man once to allow an opponent to score on a three-point shot.

In all, Oshae Brissett had some good and bad moments in this game, but he played well down the stretch, as his solid play late in this contest helped enable Syracuse to pull off the upset against Duke.  Brissett is an athletic, combination forward that could project to be a 3 and D type of player at the next level, and he could end up being a second round pick in 2019.

For Duke’s junior center Marques Bolden, his performance was a bit of a mixed bag, though it would veer in the path of being slightly positive.  On one hand, he excelled as an inside scorer and rebounder, and he also had some solid moments defensively.  On the other hand, he also struggled to defend out on the perimeter in this game against Syracuse, and ended up being called for setting a couple of moving picks to commit offensive fouls.

On offense, he generally excelled as a scorer on hustle plays, and he also managed to score on a couple of put back dunks.  He also used a pivot move to score on a leaning layup after posting up from the block.  But every once in a while, he would miss around the hoop due to rushing, as he may not always look to finish plays under control.  Bolden also rebounded the ball well, and he would tend to grab numerous boards on both ends of the floor.  However, sometimes he would not block out his man or wander too far in no man’s land, as his team would allow put back scores to his opponents.

Defensively, he may have been above average.  He did a great job of rotating to block shots off of drives, and he also would contest shots off of drives to force misses.  He also managed to successfully contest a couple of threes.  However, Bolden tended to sag too far off his man, which would cause him to allow opponents to score on jumpers, and for a stretch run, he had lots of trouble defending out on the perimeter due to lacking elite lateral mobility.  He also ended up getting beat off the dribble, which led him to allow the score that time as well.

Overall, Marques Bolden had his ups and downs, but statistically, he played very well in his team’s loss to Syracuse.   Though he struggled to defend out on the perimeter, Bolden excelled as a finisher, rebounder, and interior defender, and he was very active in swatting shots to help his team protect the paint.  Right now, he may be a second round prospect for the upcoming draft, as he could project to be a backup center in the association.

Other Notes:

Syracuse’s 6-5 senior guard Frank Howard struggled early on, but ended up having a good game in his team’s win over Duke.  He was pretty much a non-factor in the first half, as he was held scoreless in that time span, but things changed after that, as he would then go on a scoring binge, and he also ended up showing off some solid playmaking and defensive skills later in this contest.  Howard showed a knack for knocking down pull-up jumpers, and he can use crossovers and step back moves to create separation between himself and his defender.  He also excelled as a scorer off the dribble, and he would score on floaters. 

He also showed off adequate playmaking skills.  He threw good lob passes off the dribble to set up scores for his teammates, and Howard is an unselfish player that can get his teammates the basketball, but sometimes, he can also be turnover prone, as he ended up losing the ball twice after dribbling towards the hoop, and he also threw a hasty pass that was intercepted another time.  Howard did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  In this game, he would tend to leap up to haul in defensive boards to help his team on the glass.  Plus, he also defended very well.  Howard excels at playing passing lanes, and he would often jump passes to get steals and deflections.  He also was able to contest a couple of threes to force misses, but sometimes he would get called for committing reach-in fouls due to over-aggressiveness.

In summary, Frank Howard played very well, especially in the second half and in overtime to help get his team a surprising victory over Duke.  He is an athletic combo guard that showed off good all-around skills on this day.  Though Howard has struggled mightily with his jump shot and performance on the season, this game was a step in the right direction for him, and if he keeps playing well over time, he could perhaps find his way onto an NBA team’s roster sometime down the road.

Syracuse’s 7-2 senior center, Pascal Chukwu quietly had a good game in his team’s overtime win over Duke.  He thrived as a rebounder when he was on the floor, as he used his tremendous size and good athletic gifts to his advantage to haul in lots of boards to help his team.  He would also tend to score on put backs to provide his team with second chance points on offense. 

Also, he showed off fairly good defensive skills.  Plus, he would also block shots to help his team protect the paint.  Sometimes though, he would get beat on moves when defending drives or in the post, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores on occasion.  In general, Chukwu had a good showing as he played well to help get his team a narrow victory over Duke.  On the season, he hasn’t looked to score very often, but he is a tall rim protector who is a very good shot blocker, and at best, he could even perhaps find his way onto an NBA team’s roster, as he may project to be a Joel Anthony type in the league.

Syracuse’s 6-6 junior swingman, Elijah Hughes played very well, especially in the first half, as he excelled as a shooter and scorer to help get his team an overtime win over Duke.  Hughes did a great job of knocking down threes to space the floor on offense, as he can do so both off the catch or dribble, and he even made a stellar, deep three heave at the buzzer to help his team towards the end of the half.  Also, he is a good scorer off the dribble, as he possesses a quick first step, and he was able to score on a thunderous dunk and on a floater on a couple of occasions.

Defensively though, he could look to improve on this end.  Sometimes, he would sag too far off his man, and on one occasion he did not look to contest the shot, as he ended up allowing opponents to score on a couple of three-point shots.  Overall though, Elijah Hughes had a very good game, and he has been quietly having a stellar junior season this year.  He has flown under the radar, but Hughes is a promising player who could end up projecting to go in the late first to the second round range on draft day.  He is a very athletic swingman that can shoot and score the basketball, and he could project to be a Tim Hardaway Jr. type of player in the NBA.

Duke’s 6-7 freshman swingman, Cam Reddish was suffering from an illness, and so he did not play in this game against Syracuse.  Though he missed the game today, this probably will not have any effect on his draft standing, as he would still project to be a likely top 5 pick for the 2019 draft.

NBA Scouting Live
error: Content is protected !!