NBA Draft 2019 Rumors: Anonymous Execs Say RJ Barrett's Ceiling Is James Harden

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2019

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 14: NBA Draft Prospect, RJ Barrett poses for a portrait at the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery on May 14, 2019 at the Chicago Hilton in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Sherman/Getty Images

RJ Barrett isn't likely to be selected ahead of Duke teammate Zion Williamson in the 2019 NBA draft, but some within the NBA believe he could develop into an elite player. 

According to Frank Isola of The Athletic, "several league executives" believe Barrett's ceiling is Houston Rockets superstar guard and reigning NBA MVP James Harden.

Barrett is widely viewed as the third-best player in the draft behind Williamson and Murray State guard Ja Morant, meaning he could go third overall to the New York Knicks.

Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com reported Tuesday that the Knicks plan to meet with Barrett in Chicago on Wednesday, which could be the first step toward them selecting him.

Per Zagoria, ESPN's Jay Bilas is among those who believe Barrett compares favorably to Harden: "A year ago, RJ Barrett was considered the presumptive No. 1 pick and he's Hardenesque in his ability. He's got to improve his shooting, but so did Michael Jordan. I'm not saying he's Michael Jordan, but he's got the capability of doing it. He's a great young man, and he's a great teammate."

During his one season at Duke, Barrett wasn't shy about shooting the ball. He took 18.5 shots per game, shot 45.4 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from three-point range, and averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

His ability to distribute the ball at 6'7" is perhaps his most impressive attribute, as it sets him apart from the rest of the 2019 draft class.

The Knicks are in desperate need of a star player and a roster overhaul after posting an NBA-worst 17-65 record this season. Barrett would be a good start, although far more is needed to help New York become a playoff team and eventually a contender.

New York has been linked to both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. Pairing one or even both of them with Barrett would give the Knicks a supremely talented core to go along with up-and-coming players such as Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr., Damyean Dotson and Mitchell Robinson.

The Knicks' front office was likely hoping to land the No. 1 overall pick so it could use it to either take Williamson or trade it for a superstar like New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis, but Barrett isn't a bad consolation prize, and it isn't outside the realm of possibility that he could end up being the best NBA player out of this draft.

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