Duke Basketball: Answer to who’s better: Zion Williamson or R.J. Barrett?

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

Two Duke basketball players on the roster this season are so uniquely gifted that it almost seems like a sin to ask which of the two is better.

I knew my answer to the two-choice question, but I wasn’t sure which choice would receive more votes from Duke basketball fans.

What I was sure about, though, is that it would be close.

The question required three words: Who is better?

Two possible answers: R.J. or Zion.

Both R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson —  the Blue Devils’ freshmen sensations who were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, on the ESPN100 coming out of high school — are southpaws standing 6-foot-7 and possessing skills that make all other fanbases bitter with jealousy.

And with 10 games complete from Duke’s 2018-19 season (9-1 record, ranked No. 2), both have lived up to expectations.

And then some.

Barrett’s averages: 24.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 0.5 blocks, 1.0 steals, 47.9 percent from the field, 63.3 percent from the foul line, 37.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Williamson’s averages: 20.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.1 blocks, 2.0 steals, 66.1 percent from the field, 66.7 percent from the foul line, 14.3 from beyond the arc (ouch).

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Numbers seldom lie. And the totality of the numbers above — granted, ACC play has yet to begin — suggests both may stand above any other diaper dandy from past Duke basketball teams and maybe even from all past college basketball teams.

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As a result, there have been plenty of articles and debates concerning which of the two will have a better pro career OR which one is most likely to hear his name first at the 2019 NBA Draft OR which one should be Duke’s leading scorer OR which one deserves the ball on the final possession of a game when the Blue Devils trail by one.

I felt like being more general with my question; so general, in fact, that I didn’t even specify if I was referring to the game of basketball.

Note: If you are reading this before the poll’s closing — at the time of publishing, the race was tight but one held an advantage (53 percent of the vote) that could prove insurmountable — feel free to make your voice heard by voting. And if you are the type of fan who refuses to chime in on any battle between Blue Devils, then don’t vote and feel free to criticize me for even asking the question — I respect that.

If it’s too late to still vote when you read this, just take a look at the results and feel free to weigh in with a comment below or by responding to the tweet:

But my questioning didn’t stop with that one. I felt like by posing two additional questions, I could accomplish the following two tasks:

  1. Including in the conservation the other two highly talented freshmen starters for the Blue Devils: Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.
  2. Finding out how fans see the R.J-Zion debate when pairing them with Cam and Tre for hypothetical games of two-on-two.

And the results, at least at the time of publishing, are interesting. Readers can see that the player who seems likely to finish first in the vote over who is better (Barrett) doesn’t seem at all likely to be on a team that finishes first — not even all that close — in either of the two-on-two battles presented.

First, here’s the results from Zion/Cam vs. R.J./Tre (at time of publishing, Zion/Cam held a 67-33 advantage):

Finally, here’s the results from Zion/Tre vs. R.J./Cam (at time of publishing, Zion/Tre hold a 56-44 advantage):

Do these results (albeit just a small sample size) suggest that Barrett is the best individual player while Williamson is the best team player?

Again, I know my answer to that question.

But I’ll let the fans decide — or simply bash me for even bringing it up.

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No matter what the differing opinions are, all Duke basketball fans can agree that it’s been entirely too long since the Blue Devils have last played a game — a 91-58 home win on Dec. 8 against Yale. Next up is 5-4 Princeton at home on Tuesday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.