2. R.J. Barrett
The Memphis Grizzlies have one of the league’s most talented young big men in Jaren Jackson Jr., who’s still a teenager and a special two-way player. They have some younger options such as Delon Wright and Kyle Anderson who are plus defenders with some offensive upside. What they do not have is a player comfortable with the ball in his hands on every play with the ability to make something happen.
Enter R.J. Barrett, one of the draft’s most fearless players and its most talented. Detractors will point to his relative inefficiency alongside Zion Williamson at Duke, or to their tough exit from the NCAA Tournament prior to the Final Four. Inefficient shooting, 3-point shooting, elite vision — these are all fair critiques.
Barrett is also the rare 6’7″ player who can run an offense and do it well. He can score from everywhere on the court and gets into the paint with ease, often making the right pass if his opportunity wasn’t there. He averaged 4.3 assists per game with Duke, showing his offensive versatility. No player has the upside as a scorer than Barrett does.
Defensively, he has the frame to be a plus defender, and last year’s Duke team is underrated for how well they played on defense. On this Memphis team, he could slot in at the 2 alongside either Delon Wright or Mike Conley and provide an option to guard opposing backcourt players with the utility to slide to guarding a forward as well.
It’s possible Barrett ends up as an empty calories scorer, but that probably sells his upside and work ethic short. He was one of the nation’s most dominant offensive players last season and has the reasonable upside to become an All-Star offensive player for Memphis. He could step in and be the No. 1 scoring option on a team that needs one, and he will never be afraid of the moment.