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NBA Draft 2019

NBA Draft 2019: Drawing player comparisons for Canadian standout RJ Barrett

rj-barrett-player-comparisons-nba-illustration
RJ Barrett has elements of a number of legends games (NBA.com Illustration)

On June 20, RJ Barrett (Mississauga, ON) became the ninth Canadian lottery pick in draft history, headlining a draft class that saw a record number of Canadian prospects selected.

MORE: 2019 Mock Draft | History of Canadians in the NBA Draft

Barrett, a consensus All-American during his lone season at Duke University, is one of - if not the - biggest Canadian draft prospect ever, as a unique talent with a special blend of elite scoring and advanced playmaking skills.

How will those skills translate to the next level? What type of player will he project to be?

As elements of Barrett's game are reminiscent of a number of NBA greats, let's explore the parallels with some of the best.

Lamar Odom

Like Odom, Barrett is a lefty that's extremely polished on the offensive end.

At 6-foot-10, Odom surprised many as he burst onto the college scene in 1998 with a game predicated on his ballhandling and playmaking abilities. 20 years later, Barrett's on-ball skills don't come as a surprise seeing that he is a 6-foot-7 wing in an era of positionless basketball. RJ's scoring ability often overshadows his abilities as a playmaker, but it absolutely shouldn't - he finished the season averaging 4.3 assists per game, good for second on the team and sixth in the ACC.

Take a look at how Barrett and Odom's college stats compare:

Comparing freshman seasons
Season PTS REB AST FG% 3P%
Lamar Odom 1998-99 17.6 9.4 3.8 48.2 33.0
RJ Barrett 2018-19 22.6 7.6 4.3 45.4 30.8

Once in the league, Odom's versatility allowed him to play a key role in the Lakers back-to-back titles (2009, 2010) and win Sixth Man of the Year in 2011. Barrett will almost certainly be a Day 1 starter, but the playing career of Odom isn't a bad arc to follow.

James Harden

When you think of elite left-handed scorers, the first that comes to mind should absolutely be back-to-back scoring champ, James Harden. As Duke's go-to guy, Barrett averaged a team-high 22.6 points over 38 games to finish the season with 860 points, a school record for a freshman.

More than Jabari Parker. More than Jahlil Okafor. More than Brandon Ingram. More than Jayson Tatum.

That's elite.

ESPN analyst and one-time Duke Blue Devil Jay Bilas drew the parallel between Barrett and Harden as "he gets to the basket with ease, and he's a fabulous finisher, and one of the best rebounding guards in the country."

Barrett's playmaking and rebounding were on full display when he recorded a triple-double (23 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) in Duke's Feb. 16 win over NC State; Harden is a nightly threat to record a triple-double at the next level.

As for the stepback jumper? He's shown he has that in his arsenal, too.

MORE: RJ Barrett's scouting report

Jalen Rose

Yep, another lefty.

Rose, a 6-foot-8 guard, spent three seasons at the University of Michigan before being selected 13th overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 1994 NBA Draft. During his time at Michigan, he faced off against Duke multiple times, meaning he matched up with Hall of Famer Grant Hill.

Hill, who also faced Rose countless times in the NBA, admitted that he sees some of Rose's game present with Barrett, sharing that "he has a little bit of Jalen Rose and his craftiness with the ball … I think he might be a better athlete."

He specified, adding that Barrett is a "different kind of player, Jalen was a facilitator in college. He's really good at getting to his left hand, finishing at the rim. Just has a nose for putting the ball in the basket."

Considering Rose's three seasons of averaging over 20 points per game, Barrett's projection to be a better scorer is an exciting prospect for whichever team selects him in the draft.

DeMar DeRozan

Naturally, as a Mississauga native, Barrett grew up a fan of the Toronto Raptors.

From the time Barrett was nine-years-old until he was 18, his home team featured DeMar DeRozan, a four-time All-Star wing with a knack for scoring and a similar physical frame to this version of Barrett.

So similar, in fact, that Jonathan Givony of Draft Express reported that Barrett's measurements at the 2018 Nike Hoop Summit were nearly the same as DeRozan's ahead of the 2009 NBA Draft.

DeRozan measured as an all-world athlete coming out of USC, and Barrett spent plenty of time above the rim while at Duke

;

With a similar frame, a knack for scoring and years of watching (and effectively studying) his game, it makes total sense that elements of DeMar Derozan's game are present within Barrett's as well.

Also worth mentioning…

Barrett's outstanding freshman season is not only one of the best in Duke's history, but it also measures up with some of the best freshman campaigns in NCAA history. One freshman season, in particular, is that of Carmelo Anthony, who led Syracuse to a National Championship in his lone college season.

Comparing freshman seasons
Season PTS REB AST TS%
Carmelo Anthony 2002-03 22.2 10.0 2.2 53.7
RJ Barrett 2018-19 22.6 7.6 4.3 53.2

Save for a few more rebounds by Melo and a few more dimes from Barrett, the two put forth pretty similar numbers, as noted by NBA.com contributor Josh Eberley. The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Elton Alexander also drew parallels between Anthony and Barrett after seeing the latter put up 17 points and nine rebounds in a win over Notre Dame this past Feb.

When thinking of all-time great forwards with a smooth offensive game, "Big Game" James Worthy deserves a nod as well. After being selected No. 1 overall in 1982, Worthy averaged 17.6 points per game, earned seven All-Star selections and won three titles as a member of the Lakers.

While Worthy did a lot of his work out of the post, his ability to get out in the open floor as a member of the "Showtime" Lakers is a skill displayed by Barrett at Duke as he thrived in transition. DraftExpress attribues Barrett's long strides as the main reason for his being a tough cover in the transition game.

As he could very well land with a young team that looks to get up and down the floor, Barrett should be able to thrive as a scorer off of transition alone.

While we still don't know where Barrett will begin his career, there is no doubt that he will make an immediate impact wherever he lands.

With the elements of all-time greats present in basketball DNA in addition to his own personal flair, there will be no shortage of excitement surrounding the Canadian phenom.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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