Knicks Should Feature RJ Barrett More | He’s The Anti-New Yorker And Perfect For The City

Photo: Screenshot/KnicksDaily

The New York Knicks drafted RJ Barrett with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He went after his Duke teammate and close friend Zion Williamson, and Murray State guard Ja Morant. Williamson and Morant were once AAU teammates. Barrett being drafted was a culmination of a great prep career at Montverde Academy and then one season at Duke.

Barrett was the consensus No. 1 overall recruit in the class of 2018. He was the prized recruit of Duke’s four player, five-star class, which also featured the aforementioned Zion, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.

 

 

In Barrett’s lone season in Durham, he averaged 22.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. Barrett was named a consensus All-American and he won the Jerry West Award given to the nation’s top shooting guard.

The Blue Devils fell short of the ultimate goal of winning an NCAA title by being upset in the 2019 East Regional final by the Michigan State Spartans.

Knicks Draft Barrett With Hopes Of Finding A Star: Godfather Nash Speaks On His Behalf

When the Knicks drafted RJ Barrett in 2019, they did so with the hopes that he represented a turning point, a rise back to prominence for the once proud franchise. When Barrett arrived the Knicks hadn’t made the playoffs since 2013.

Barrett struggled a bit out the gate, prompting his godfather and Pro Basketball Hall of Famer Steve Nash to vouch for him. Nash told everyone to be patient with the talented Canadian.

In his first 48 games Barrett averaged 14.7 points on 38.7 percent shooting from the field and a lackluster 30 percent from deep. Barrett looked overwhelmed and confused most nights, but it wasn’t all his fault. The firing of head coach David Fizdale didn’t help matters, nor did promoting Mike Miller to the lead chair.

“Barrett has shown very much of what I thought he’d show,” Nash told the New York Daily News. “He’s an incredibly talented, well-rounded basketball player. He does a bit of everything. I think he will evolve into a great playmaker because that’s a natural ability for him that he doesn’t necessarily get to shine in at this stage of his career and on this stage of this team.”

Knicks Make Playoffs For First Time Since 2012-13: Barrett Plays Key Role

Barrett experienced a huge leap in his shooting splits during the 2020-21 season, his second in the NBA. His numbers increased to 17.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game. Barrett even saw his efficiency numbers jump despite more shot attempts. He shot 44 percent on field goals and 40.3 percent from three.

Barrett was beginning to blossom, and there were many nights where he was the best Knicks player on the floor, affecting the game in a variety of ways, as Nash predicted.

The elevation of Barrett’s game was a huge reason for the Knicks being the No. 4 seed in the 2020-21 playoffs. Although they were upended by the upstart Hawks in five games, Barrett had arrived.

Barrett Picks Up Where He Left Off In 2020-21: Knicks Aren’t Sneaking Up On Teams In 2021-22 Though

Barrett put some work in on his game in the offseason, and it showed early in this 2021-22 season when Barrett averaged 25.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 51.7 FG% and 50 percent from three during a five-game stretch.

 

His play caught the attention of head coach Tom Thibodeau.

“RJ has great work capacity, he wants to be good, it’s important to him, he’s very coachable, he’s a great teammate,” Thibs told local reporters. “When you see how he approaches things, he has toughness, he has basketball IQ, and he has competitiveness. When you have those three things along with your talent, you can really improve.”

Barrett Believes In His Abilities: He’s Got Star Qualities And Moxie

Barrett is the second, sometimes third option on the Knicks, behind Julius Randle, Derrick Rose or Kemba Walker. Evan Fournier has even had games where he was the first option on offense. But RJ has always been so cerebral and calm, characteristics not usually associated with New York hoops. When you think of NYC hoops, you think of toughness, bravado, being on go all the time and wearing the passion on your sleeve.

Then again, maybe that’s what’s been stopping the Knicks in particular from returning to championship caliber. Too much chaos. RJ slows it down so he can turn up on the court. It’s a different mentality. 

A few nights ago, RJ hit the game-winning three at the buzzer to complete a 25-point comeback win for the Knicks over the Celtics. His reaction was about as emotional as you will ever see the silent assassin.

It was the franchise’s largest comeback win since a 26-point turnaround against the Bucks in 2004.

Barrett has struggled a bit after starting out on fire this season,  as he’s averaging 15.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 2.3 APG on 40.2 percent from the field. His three-point shooting has dipped down to 34 percent, which is 6 percent lower than his 40 percent clip last season.

The Knicks started strong out of the gate but have come down to earth and are now 19-21 and an 11th seed, meaning at this juncture they would not be a playoff squad. After the playoff optimism of last season, it would be an earth-shattering disappointment if the Knicks didn’t make the playoffs. The overall improvement must begin with RJ Barrett assuming full leadership of the team.

The Knicks don’t run enough sets for Barrett, and he seems to always have to create for himself. It’s up to the Knicks to realize the type of player they have and put him in position to have the ball in his hands and lead the team into the future.


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