The major concern with RJ Barrett entering the NBA with the New York Knicks was his lack of a perimeter shot. He’s shown this past Summer League that he has a few deficiencies that need to be refined into strengths, but it won’t be easy.
The physicality and heightened athleticism have presented a hurdle for the young Canadian, as he prefers to work in the paint and drive to the hoop. After looking horrendous for the first two Summer League games, he progressed nicely and finished his final game with 21 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
A good sign for Barrett, who wasn’t giving us any reason to believe he could be a top player in the league. Again, the Summer League should be taken with a grain of salt, as the jitters surely could’ve played a part.
New York Knicks: What are RJ Barrett’s weaknesses at this point?
1.) His three-point shot
Hitting on just .308 percent from beyond the arch in 2018 with Duke, this is a part of Barrett’s game that must be improved. The NBA has progressed into a three-point league and it’s essential he develops that part of his game. During the Summer League, he shot 24%, extremely low, but there’s reason to believe he will improve in his rookie campaign.
With the NBA average from 3-point land being about 36%, Barrett will likely hover in the 33% range, which isn’t too bad coming out of college. It’s important to remember that Barrett entered the league with challenges, most of which we have to assume the coaching staff was aware of.
2.) Driving to the rim with more strength
With Duke, Barrett shot .529 on two-point shots and had a field goal percentage of .454. His dominance on the interior was impressive, but bigger and stronger defenders in the NBA will force him to adapt his game and put more muscle mass on.
His lankiness should actually prove to be an advantage, using his length to get beyond defenders. Standing straight up against interior defenders is where he will struggle. His post-game will take time to resurrect itself, but it’s important he takes those shots and works through the misses.
The polish he requires will be significant. He doesn’t have elite athleticism and his skill-set isn’t at a level where he can blow by defenders yet. His footwork is sloppy at times and mechanical – it will be easy for defenders to mimic his moves and catch him in the air.
However, he’s a great pick-and-roll player. He’s a capable passer and loves to play up-tempo, moving the ball down the court quickly on defensive rebounds. I anticipate he will try to mask his deficiencies with high energy and hustle, something most rookies do while they’re working on their game.