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RJ Barrett’s Knicks Affiliation Inspired His ESPN Best 25 under 25 Snub

The rising rookie was a victim of the popular "Knicks suck" syndrome.

Image Credit: Getty Images

ESPN released it’s NBA’s Best 25 players under 25 list and apparently, Knicks baby boomers, Mitchell Robinson and rookie RJ Barrett, are not on the list. The Knicks are a popular team these days for media and fans to clown and devalue. They’re the kid with the constantly runny nose, who walks around eating pickles and getting picked on by everyone in the schoolyard.

Despite the fact that the franchise is worth more than $4.6 billion, it has generated $0 worth of reputation, goodwill and winning in the past two decades. New York has always been a popular town to hate. Everyone wants to visit, but then there’s the flip side of New Yorkers being congested, a little junky, rude, unpredictable and cocky to the point of arrogance.

Once the Knicks started to suck, everyone in America jumped on the “Knicks suck” bandwagon. It was an opportunity to beat up on the Big Bad wolf. First, the narrative was started that the players on the team stink. Then the conversation extended to the owner and the front office. The Mecca went from one of the most enticing places to play to a plague for superstar free agents.

So every player that puts on a Knicks uniform now “sucks”. At least that’s the narrative that was once again supported in this list, and people aren’t too happy about it.

I can’t get into the actual rankings too deeply, because that’s all subjective. But the manner in which they boost certain players such as Lonzo Ball and demean the value of Robinson and Barrett just because they play for the “hated” 19-43 Knicks, is disappointing.

The Birth of RJ Barrett

Barrett is playing his best basketball right now. Getting drafted by a tanking franchise and having to navigate his way through a rookie season with a team that is struggling in every facet —  and has a fan rebellion on its hands — wasn’t easy.

He had it harder than all of the other Duke rookies. Zion has talent around him, the hype of the media and is coddled by the Pelicans franchise. Cam Reddish has solid leadership at coach in Lloyd Pierce, a talented young nucleus and much less pressure to win in Atlanta. Hawks fans are enjoying the nightly celebrity atmosphere and excitement of watching guys like Cam, Trae Young, and John Collins blossom.

Despite the challenges of a midseason coaching change and having his game stifled to a degree by ball-hogging vets on big contract hunts like Marcus Morris and Julius Randle, Barrett has been solid. Anyone can see that he will fly up this Top 25 list as the Knicks surround him with All-star talent and veteran leadership.

At just 19 years old, with one year of college under his belt, RJ is third among rookies in scoring at about 14.1 ppg.

Since the All-Star break, Barrett is averaging 17.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 made 3-pointers per game while shooting a much-improved 47.7 % from the floor. According to @tommybeer, as of a few games ago, RJ was the only rookie in the league averaging more than 15 points, more than four rebounds and more than three assists per game.

And if Robinson’s oversight is any less egregious, the lanky youngster is really asserting himself as a future force in the league and getting praise from veterans.

Dopey sports writers need not apply. The ESPN guys also needed to do a bit more statistical research.

That’s if they weren’t just crusading with anti-NY hearts and reveling in the Spike Lee drama. Were they using the list as another way to demean the Knicks’ reputation? The Knicks organization does enough of that on its own. Not putting any of the Knicks’ young draft picks on the list is another indictment on the ever-changing front office. The Twittersphere is bugging out over the list for various reasons, so in that regard, ESPN accomplished its goal.

Just don’t be fooled into thinking that the Knicks don’t have at least one of the To 25 players under 25 in the game.

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