Scouting Report: Does RJ Barrett Know He’s Not Playing Hockey?

by Alex Poletti

With the NBA draft under two months away, The Second String brings a new series where our team of analysts dissects every aspect of a prospect’s game to see if they are really worth a top ten lottery pick. Here’s our pick for number three:

The Duke Blue Devils are certainly well represented in the 2019 NBA Draft Class, as our analysts have forward RJ Barrett listed as the number three prospect.

At 203 pounds, Barrett may not have the bulk of his fellow 6’7 teammate Zion Williamson, but he certainly makes up for it in athletic prowess and skill. The Canadian phenom averaged over 22 points per game and 4.3 assists.

There is one glaring hole in Barrett’s game, however, which fails to be addressed by other analysts: he is Canadian.

Now, this is not to say that Canadians cannot play basketball; Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson and Steve Nash are all products of the Great White North. However, analysts at The Second String just cannot be certain whether Barrett really knows if he is playing basketball, or if he just thinks he is playing hockey.

Barrett, aptly nicknamed the Maple Mamba, is a player whose head is always in the game. It could be so far in the game that he doesn’t even realize he isn’t playing his country’s national sport. We have to admit it, his Eurostep does look like he’s gliding across the ice.

“There is precedent for someone constantly believing they are performing a certain task,” lead psychiatrist for The Second String Gabe Radtke says. “Usually, these are tasks with which the participant is very familiar. Hockey makes sense for Mr. Barrett, as he would have played it quite a bit as a young child.”

The good news is that at this point, it hasn’t affected his game: he does still average over 20 points, after all. One cannot be certain, though, that this will continue to be the case, especially as he gets involved in more intense basketball.

The problem is not a now problem, per se. But what happens when your team is deep in the fourth quarter and Barrett brings out his hockey stick and starts stick-checking opponents? That much, we cannot predict.

This may be a particularly large problem if Barrett ever plays in Indiana, as Hoosier sounds quite a bit like Hoser. If Barrett hears the latter, he could relapse into full-hockey mode, which will draw a technical at minimum.

Regardless of what sport he thinks he’s playing, Barrett is still a beast on the court. We recommend him with our third overall pick, but be wary of breaking the illusion. While Barrett going overboard would be bad, it would be even worse if his facade fades completely.

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