Can Knicks’ RJ Barrett become the ‘3rd star’ they desperately need?

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Feb 27, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) reacts during the second quarter against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

RJ Barrett was a dream realized for the New York Knicks when he was drafted in 2019. With a promising future, a fresh start post-Porzingis, and coming from a formidable trio alongside Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson at Duke University, Barrett’s entrance into the NBA was highly anticipated.

Barrett’s successful college career propelled him to become the third overall pick, much to the delight of Knicks fans in New York City. His impressive rookie season, averaging 14 points and 5 assists in 30 minutes per game, reinforced the promise he held.

Steve Nash, Barrett’s godfather and influential figure in his NBA journey, expressed high admiration for Barrett’s potential in the league. Nash commended Barrett’s professionalism and maturity, noting, “It’s remarkable the way he handles himself and sticks to the process at such a young age. I think he’s got an incredible future.”

RJ Barrett’s Fifth Season: Questions Emerge

Now in his fifth season, questions are emerging: “Is RJ the crucial component that can elevate the Knicks to new heights?”

Since his debut in 2019, Barrett has often been viewed as a borderline third option. As Barrett continues to grow and mature alongside players like Julius Randle and, more recently, Jalen Brunson, who play significant roles, there’s a sense that Barrett may be struggling to take the next leap.

Barrett has improved his points-per-game average since his rookie season, with 2022 being his most productive year so far, boasting 20 points and 5 rebounds per game. However, a look at the advanced stats tells a different story.

Analyzing Barrett’s Performance

Barrett ranks 178th out of 198 active players in true shooting percentage and 113th out of 123 in effective field goal percentage. The league average for true shooting at the shooting guard position stands at 57%, while Barrett’s true shooting percentage sits at 53%. These metrics suggest that Barrett may not be performing at the level required to be the third key player the Knicks need. But is it all on Barrett?

The Impact of Knicks’ Culture and Strategies

Under Coach Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks are gradually restoring their culture and defensive presence. Is Barrett capable of thriving in this setting?