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R.J. Barrett is projected by many to be the choice of the New York Knicks when they make their No. 3 overall selection in the NBA Draft on June 20 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
A two-time NBA Most Valuable Player believes the former Duke star would be perfect to ply his trade at Madison Square Garden for the next several years.
Of course, he’s biased… he’s Barrett’s godfather.
He’s Steve Nash, who watched his godson thrive while playing alongside the nation’s No. 1 prospect, Zion Williamson.
“I think he’ll be an exciting player for Knicks fans. He’s able to handle that type of stuff (of being in New York) because he’s been at Duke but he’s also been one of the top, if not the No. 1 kid, since he’s been 13, 14 years old,” Nash told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “So he’s able to handle it,” Nash told the Daily News in a phone interview from LA.
“And then to have Zion sort of eclipse him in the draft and in the public view this season, and then to watch the way he’s handled it and the way he’s been — he’s never pointed a finger, he never made an excuse.”
Nash said the way Barrett blended his game with that of Williamson only lends credence to the fact Barrett would be ready for whatever playing in New York could throw at him.
“He’s only embraced Zion as his teammate and that says a lot about his character. It’s difficult at that age to be anointed so young and then have somebody eclipse you, especially on your own team, and he’s handled all that so well,” Nash said. “He’s a very mature and good-spirited person, which I think is huge characteristic for a professional athlete. You have ups and downs, it’s how you deal with them kind of predicts what type of ceiling you have and how many obstacles you overcome.”
Nash and Barrett’s father, Rowan, played alongside one another as members of the Canadian National Team, where they formed what became a close friendship and bond, obviously.
He said he’s always been willing to lend a hand or an ear to his godson and always will.
“If he ever needs anything or he’s going through a tough time or something that’s bothering him. He never hesitates to reach out,” Nash. 45, said. “I was in the gym working out with him the other day.”
Nash believes the 6-foot-7 Barrett is ready for the professional game.
“He’s got such an incredible skillset that we forget he’s 18 years old for a few more weeks (Barrett will turn 19 on June 14). He’s got a big upside and he’s going to have a big effect on the NBA game, I think,” Nash told Bondy. “I think he’ll develop into a guy who can guard multiple players. But he’s definitely a ballhandling wing, somebody who can play the point, the 2 or the 3.
“In today’s game, who knows? They can go small and he can be the 4 for stretches. So especially when you project when he’s going to be 22, 23 years old, he might look and feel a lot different. But the things that are very hard to teach, like feel for the game and ability to make teammates better and make plays, he’s already ahead in those areas. Because those are things that are difficult to teach. Very few players pick that up during their career.”