The New York Knicks took a huge step back in 2021-22, finishing the season a disappointing 37-45 and failing to make the playoffs. This after going 41-31 in 2020-21 and clinching the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
A huge piece of both of those teams is forward RJ Barrett the 2019 No. 3 overall pick out of Duke has seen gotten better each season. The smooth, rangy 6-foot-7 lefty averaged a career-best 20 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season. Two areas the team would like to see him improve is his 40.8 percent field goal shooting, and his 35.3 three-point percentage.
But overall Barrett is a very solid building block for the Knicks. And while many expect him to be in orange and blue for a long time, Marc Berman of the New York Post says he’s heard rumors that head coach Tom Thibodeau would prefer to trade Barrett instead of second-year guard Quentin Grimes in a deal for Utah Jazz swingman Donovan Mitchell.
“There is belief around the league that Thibodeau would prefer to give up Barrett in a deal than Quentin Grimes, who is coming off a solid rookie year, and a summer league in which he looked quicker and more sculpted. Grimes is a better defender and three-point shooter than Barrett.”
While this is hearsay and we haven’t heard Thibs come out and say that, it’s still worth listening to. For one, Thibs prides himself on defense. He’s know as a defensive strategist in NBA circles. Also, he’s been a huge fan of Grimes since the pre-draft process.
— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) August 21, 2022
Does Thibs Envision A Backcourt Of Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimes And Donovan Mitchell?
The Knicks added former Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson via free agency this offseason, and Thibs reportedly envisions Grimes playing alongside Brunson and Donovan Mitchell, if the Utah Jazz star is eventually traded to the Big Apple. Grimes’ size, defense, range shooting and the ability to play without the ball is what Thibs covets. With Brunson and Mitchell, two ball-dominant players, Barrett wouldn’t be as good a fit because he’s also ball-dominant.
With all that said, Grimes still isn’t the player that Barrett is. In fact, Barrett has the second-most points of any player in his draft class. Only Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant, who went one pick before Barrett, has more.
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) August 10, 2022
And Barrett is a very solid wing defender in his own right as well
Could The Supposed Preference Be About Money?
This is the final year of Barrett’s rookie deal, meaning as of July 1st, the former Duke star is eligible for a five-year, $185 million max deal. Do the Knicks want to pay him that or pay Grimes roughly $15 million for the next four seasons, as he’s under contract until 2025-26.
Last week on The Putback, we had a few notes on Quentin Grimes, RJ Barrett & potential lineups next season (clip below) and talked Jalen Brunson, Knicks' long-term future & more w/ @CPTheFanchise, @AshNicoleMoss & @CWilliamson44. Full show here: https://t.co/s2WhwwEYaF pic.twitter.com/78qzFjpzEs
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) July 5, 2022
Another factor in the deal would be if the Jazz are confident Barrett would be willing to sign off on an extension. If he isn’t willing to play in Utah long term, any hopes of that deal would die right there.
Again, this is all speculation at this point, but worth paying attention to, as Thibs has been known to take fit over pure talent. And in this situation, he’d be doing just that, because based on talent alone Grimes is not in Barrett’s league.