Road to RJ


I agree. Why take Ja over RJ especially with his minor knee scope surgery. I know it?s a PG-driven league but can you really ignore 5 years of work/evidence?


All Star
It's a shooters' league more than anything, regardless of what position the shooting comes from. Yeah, we've seen Curry win a ton of championships, but we've also seen Russell Westbrook choke in the first round a lot


I agree. Why take Ja over RJ especially with his minor knee scope surgery. I know it’s a PG-driven league but can you really ignore 5 years of work/evidence?

I'm still BAFFLED over the Memphis Grizz announcement of taking JA with the 2nd pick.
Did Conley ask to be traded .. after Gasol were traded on the deadline? That's the only reason i could understand the Grizz drafting JA.
If the Griiz do select JA with the 2nd pick, then the Basketball Gods are looking-down on blessing the Knicks with a future super-star Barrett !!!

It's a shooters' league more than anything, regardless of what position the shooting comes from. Yeah, we've seen Curry win a ton of championships, but we've also seen Russell Westbrook choke in the first round a lot

You right .. the shooters-league has been PUNKING the NBA regular season games to the point where over 80% of the players in the NBA league think they deserve to take 1 or more 3-ball shots per game.
When we look at the last two seasons of NBA regular-season game stats on 3-ball shooting .. we will find out the average team 3-ball stats in the regular-season percentage are 11-33 for the average NBA team .. that's 22 missed shots from the 3-ball line.

When the 3-Ball line was first admitted into the NBA, the average team took 15 3-ball shots, and 10 of those shots were taken in the 4th quarter. Today teams start the game where the first shot taken are a 3-ball shot !!!


All Star
Conley might want to be traded but nobody going to trade for his overpaid washed up ass

I hope the Grizzlies are that dumb and just take Morant. I think Barrett is a future superstar. You know, it's sad to say, but in this day and age of the NBA, athleticism is overrated. Ja has that jaw-dropping athleticism but who cares...athletic PGs don't get you anywhere...John Wall, Russell Westbrook...all these guys are losers...meanwhile guys like Curry and Harden who aren't great athletes by NBA standards are leading their teams to the playoffs year after year...I say screw the athletic guy, take the guy with the more well-rounded game. RJ Barrett is going to be the next Grant Hill!


While those attributes are admirable in pro sports, there's still something that matters above all in the Big Apple: winning games.

Barrett certainly showed evidence that he can contribute to winning in his one year at Duke, averaging 22.6 points, 4.3 assists and 7.6 rebounds as a freshman. In doing so, he became the first player in NCAA history to have at least 850 points, 250 rebounds and 150 assists in a season.

But, like most 19-year-olds, Barrett's game has room for improvement. Scouts have concerns about Barrett's shot selection, outside shot (he hit 30.1 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc at Duke) and ability to get past defenders off the dribble at the next level.

Barrett isn't blind to these aspects of his game, according to those close to him.

"He knows he's not a finished product," Washington says.

To that end, Barrett has been working with trainer Drew Hanlen since shortly after the college season ended to address each aspect of his game. Hanlen, who has worked with Barrett since he was 15, says recent workouts have been tailored toward working on his shot and improving his 'shiftiness' off the dribble.

"He likes to be coached, likes to ask questions, he's big on mastering the nuances of each skill," Hanlen says. "He's a guy that works his ass off and really wants to be special"


Ian Begley, | Twitter |

About six weeks after Duke's loss to Michigan State in the Elite Eight, RJ Barrett was in California with Zion Williamson and trainer David Zenon. They were on the West Coast for something totally unrelated to college basketball, but the defeat was still on Barrett's mind.

"He was saying, 'We should have had that game,'" Zenon says. "(My teammates and I) should have done this and we should have done that. He had four or five things that he listed that the players needed to do."

As he reeled off the specific issues, it was clear how much the loss still bothered Barrett.

"He was in mourning after that loss," says Dwayne Washington, who has coached Barrett since he was 12. "Most people would have been like, 'I'm going to the league, I'm going to be a top-five pick. (Let's move on).'... He was burning."

That competitive drive has shaped Barrett as a player and person throughout a decorated high school career and his season at Duke. And those close to Barrett believe it will lead to success at the next level.

"Winning is the only thing that matters to him," Washington says. "There's no compromise.... Everything he's been about has been about winning, excellence, not being afraid to compete at the highest level, the biggest stage."

Barrett will step onto the biggest stage of his life on Thursday night when he shakes commissioner Adam Silver's hand and puts on the hat of the team that drafts him. If everything goes the way it's projected, Barrett will have a blue Knicks hat on when he walks off the Barclays Center stage. New York is expected to select Barrett with the No. 3 pick.

And if they do, the immediate question some long-suffering Knicks fans will ask about Barrett is, can he handle the Big Apple?

Those who have spent time around Barrett believe the answer is a resounding yes.

"There's one guy in (the draft) that's built for New York City and that's RJ Barrett," says Rae Miller, an assistant coach at Montverde Academy, where Barrett played high school basketball. "He has the personality, the level of play that New York enjoys and he has the character."

"He's been raised with a New York mentality," says Washington, adding: "He is what people say New Yorkers are supposed to be -- aggressive, determined, confident and always pushing the envelope. That's how you get to greatness."

Barrett has embraced the idea of playing for the Knicks, a franchise that has won just one playoff series in the past 19 years. He's only met and worked out for New York in the weeks leading up to the draft, eschewing workout invites from other teams with top picks.

"This is the place I want to be, so I hope they draft me," he said earlier this month.

* * *

If you talk to enough people around Barrett, a clear picture starts to emerge. There are 'two RJs,' to borrow a phrase Washington uses.

There's 'off-the-court' RJ.

"Everybody seems to gravitate toward him. He exudes confidence and humility. His stature is how he doesn't let that define him," Washington, the director of the UPLAY Canada grass roots program, describes it.

That demeanor has made Barrett a natural leader.

"He's a great locker room guy. He gets the temperature in the room pretty quickly," says Zenon, an NBA/NCAA trainer -- but not Barrett's personal trainer -- who spent time with Barrett and Williamson at Duke regularly this season. "He's able to relate to a lot of guys."

Then there's on-the-court RJ.

Washington, a Bronx native, says Barrett embodies the traits on the court that New Yorkers, in particular, can appreciate: an insatiable drive combined with an unrestrained competitive streak.

"This kid is like a real 1988 New Yorker. He's not some 2016 Instagram model. He's trying to kill you," Washington says.


RJ in the lab working hard:

Ian Begley, | Twitter |

RJ Barrett has been training for several weeks ahead of Thursday's NBA Draft. And the workouts, with trainer Drew Hanlen, have prioritized two area's of Barrett's game: shooting and the ability to shift directions off the dribble to elude defenders - aka wiggle.

Barrett has also worked on his approach in the mid-range, working on his pace so he's less sped up and doesn't force things, according to Hanlen. He's worked on side-steps, step-backs, and fades so he can improve his efficiency in the half court.

"Like all 19 year olds, he has a ton of room for growth," said Hanlen, who trains dozens of pros, including Beal and Jayson Tatum. "But I think he was one of the most over-criticized players in college basketball history. He put up numbers that no freshman in the history of the game has put up, and still was criticized because everyone was kind of caught up in the hype."

In a general sense, Hanlen and others say that Barrett is well aware of the areas he needs to improve upon to succeed in the NBA.

"He just wants to be special. He already is special," Hanlen says. "He knows that he has a ton of room to grow and he knows that he's going to have to be more efficient and effective if he's going to be the player that he knows he's going to become in the NBA."


Barrett has moved his right hand on the side of the ball for a smoother release, and turned his stance to allow for a more fluid shot. He's also spread his shooting hand, so the backspin on his shot spins tight and lowered his base so he has better rhythm, Hanlen says.

"His pocket slipped up and moved in front of his left eye, so we moved it over and moved his elbow out so he has a good vision triangle," Hanlen said of Barrett, who shot 30.8 percent from beyond the arc last year at Duke.

Hanlen will sometimes ask him to make a certain amount of shots at the end of the workout. Barrett often asks Hanlen not to count one of his makes.

"He'll say, 'I didn't do it perfect' or 'don't count that one it didn't feel right.' Or, 'Hey I need some extra reps because I don't feel like I've mastered it yet.' That's a huge sign of maturity."


Barrett has tightened his dribble and worked on shifting defenders laterally instead of just being physical in recent workouts, Hanlen said.

"I put him on the exact same shiftiness program that I put Bradley Beal on a few years ago, and it really helped Brad turn into a playmaker," Hanlen said. "With Brad, it was really a two-summer process. We put RJ on it in the pre-draft. It takes time to get shifty and get your body moving, get it to more fast-twitch movement and everything like that. But he's definitely progressing well in both the shooting and the shiftiness categories. We'll keep working all summer to get him as ready as possible for his rookie season."

Hanlen says Barrett has worked with his physical therapist/strength coach to help improve his movement.

"He's definitely moving more fluidly and he's definitely addressed some of the weaknesses that we saw in his game," Hanlen said.