RJ Barrett has taken yet another step forward.
The just-turned 17-year-old led Canada to the title of the 2017 FIBA World Championships U19 in Cairo, Egypt in remarkable fashion, earning MVP honors after he averaging 28.2 points per 40 minutes on 28% usage-rate and ranking 15th in the tournament in defensive rating – according to RealGM. Canada was +126 in his 214 minutes, according to FIBA.
Though perhaps more impressive than his statistical profile and the fact he was a lot younger than the cutoff age was how he dominated that tournament. The lefty wing has developed into a legit shot creator for himself and others who feels comfortable operating in high pick-and-roll against a set defense.
On the other end, the six-foot-seven wing has the combination of physical profile and athletic ability to develop into an impact defender who can switch across all positions. That hasn’t yet materialized but he’s able to create events all over the place and helps finish possessions that way, which is why he ranked so high in defensive rating.
Barrett didn’t impress much in one-on-one instances in this event. He didn’t show a particularly diverse set of dribble moves or the side-to-side shake he had in the past, relying on a hesitation + burst sequence to get by his man when he could.
When he couldn’t, Barrett sometimes opted for a spin move to get all the way to the basket but mostly relied on the strength in his 193-pound frame to maintain his balance through contact and his momentum forward, though it would sometimes lead to him driving into a crowd.
With that as the case, Barrett did most of his offense operating in middle high pick-and-roll and wowed with his development controlling the offense 25-feet away from the basket. The improvements he made to his passing were particularly pleasing.
Barrett showcased the ability to play with pace against the opponent showing hard or hedging at the point of attack and gearing up to crowd his path to the basket, slowing down, keeping his dribble alive and subsequently displaying nice court vision to make passes over the top to the big sneaking his way to the basket.
Turning the corner or attacking downhill, Barrett also impressed with his passing on the move. Not only in terms of drop-offs to a big at the dunker’s spot or kick-outs to the strong-side as the defense collapsed to him but also making well-timed pocket passes and passes across his body to the opposite end of the court – assisting on 29% of Canada’s scores when he was on the floor in Cairo.
His handle has improved as well. It’s hard to say he keeps the ball out on a string or something but it’s pretty decent for someone his size, as he turned it over on just 12.8% of his possessions at the Worlds U19. He can go right from time-to-time but has shown a strong preference for driving to his dominant hand’s side.
Barrett is an explosive leaper out of one foot or two feet, including taking flight in a crowd. He’s also proven himself strong enough to score through contact, despite consistently playing against older age groups. But his touch on non-dunk finishes is only so-so and although he’s flashed a running floater and a shot-fake + pivot + floater off a jump-stop sequence, Barrett hasn’t yet shown much versatility to his finishing.
With that as the case, his best method of interior scoring remains his ability to get to the foul line. His frame invites a lot of contact as he bullies his way to the basket. Barrett averaged 11.4 free throws per 40 minutes in Cairo and improved his efficiency at the charity stripe, nailing them at a 75.4% clip at the Worlds U19 after converting just 59.7% of such shots at the Worlds U17 last year.
That development in set shooting carried over to his pull-up shooting too, as he has become a lot more comfortable taking stop-and-pop jumpers from mid-range. Barrett looked fluid rising up and pulling the trigger and was reasonably efficient on those, converting 51.1% of his 88 overall two-point shots despite the fact he took a steady diet of such looks.
SPACING THE FLOOR
Barrett shot an easy ball on his 38-point performance against the United States in the semifinal but struggled as a floor-spacer for most of the tournament. His catch-and-shoot release looked more methodical and mechanical that I had remembered and he missed quite a few open looks — nailing just five of his 21 three-point shots.
And that was simply as an open shot shooter. Barrett didn’t have any opportunities to showcase if he has any versatility to his shot, though his release on spot-ups suggest he hasn’t yet developed much ability to come off staggered screens, come off pindown screens, sprint to the ball to launch long bombs off dribble hand-offs or act as a pick-and-pop screener on small-small pick-and-rolls.
Barrett defended well against opponents his own size in isolation. He got down in a stance, shuffled his feet laterally, used his strength to contain dribble penetration and used his eight-foot-six standing reach to contest pull-up shots effectively.
Barrett also did well as a weak-side defender. He used his six-foot-10 wingspan to make plays in the passing lanes, averaging 2.2 steals per 40 minute, and his burst to run shooters off their shots with his closeouts.
Barrett is prone to losing his man relocating to the corner or an open spot around the wing as he locks in to what’s going on in the strong-side, as it tends to be the case with most teenagers. But other than that, he proved himself attentive to his responsibilities rotating inside to crowd the area near the basket as Canada played quite a bit of zone in the latter parts of the tournament, though it was disappointing he got no blocks in his 214 minutes considering his athletic prowess.
His most tangible impact on defense were his contributions on the defensive glass, as Barrett impressed with his commitment boxing out bigger players when Canada went with smaller lineups and just consistently crashing the glass – collecting 16.5% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.
The biggest concerns regard his ability to play pick-and-roll defense or pick up smaller players on switches.
Barrett works to go over screens but struggles to negotiate them cleanly, falling behind or completely erasing himself out of these plays. And when he found himself on a guard type out on an island, Barrett was too spaced out and got blown by badly in a couple of instances.
 His birth is listed as June of 2000
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara