After being selected with the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, RJ Barrett had an up-and-down rookie season. He had some efficiency problems due to a lack of spacing, shooting just 40.2% from the field. However, he flashed the legitimate potential to be a 20+ ppg scorer.
Barrett had 13 games in which he scored 20 or more points, three of which came in the final 10 games that he appeared in. He also grabbed a solid five rebounds per game while showing impressive flashes of elite passing.
What stood out most about Barrett was his ability to create his own shot and get to the free-throw line. Only 35% of his two-point field goals were assisted. He also averaged 4.5 free-throw attempts per game, tied with Ja Morant for the highest mark among rookies this season.
In Tom Thibodeau’s last full season, he led the Timberwolves to a 47-35 record while posting the fourth-highest offensive rating in the league. Despite this top-five finish, Minnesota led the league in two-point field goals made while finishing 18th in total assists. Also, that 2017-18 Timberwolves team finished third in free throws made and fifth in free throws attempted.
It’s clear that Thibodeau heavily relies on players who can create offense and get to the charity stripe, something that RJ Barrett showed he can do as a 19-year old. It’s not hard to imagine RJ taking a huge leap in his second year while playing in an offense that caters to his strengths.
While Thibodeau has been criticized for his tendency to push players, it seems like Barrett has the drive to match his intensity.