Did the Knicks part ways with a ‘toxic asset’ in RJ Barrett?

RJ Barrett, Knicks, Raptors
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Trading for O.G. Anunoby gave the New York Knicks what they wanted — a two-way scoring threat that furthers their championship-level defense. Did it also allow them to part ways with a player that was not conducive to winning games?

Was RJ Barrett Toxic While With the Knicks?

Per Heavy Sports’ Alder Almo, ESPN’s Zach Lowe characterized RJ Barrett in a disparaging way following the Knicks moving him to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for Anunoby:

“I’ve always said if there’s a continuum of RJ Barrett optimism and pessimism—and over here on the pessimistic side is like, ‘He just stinks, he’s a toxic asset.’ And that is a word that got thrown around yesterday in my conversations with front office people and coaches—toxic asset. Like you’re swallowing his contract,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe revealed.

Lowe’s dig at Barrett is apparently a consensus opinion around the league.

Barrett has not been known to be a locker room cancer, though he has had tense moments with the media when faced with benchings down the stretch.

Midway through last season, Barrett was a nudge away from letting his pleasantries be known after Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau benched him during a critical game, as Stefan Bondy of the New York Post then tweeted:

Further reports claim Barrett was incensed and openly insinuated to then-teammate Cam Reddish that had he spoken his mind, it might not have been media-friendly.

However, despite that and other retorts to the likes of Stephen A. Smith later in that year’s playoffs, Barrett’s mild-mannered demeanor has not indicated any signs of disruption on the floor or behind the scenes.

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Knicks No Longer Have to Deal With Barrett’s Inconsistencies in the Efficiency Department

Barrett’s play had seen its highs and lows while with the Knicks. The Duke University product had given Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle a reliable scoring presence as the team’s third option, but constantly dealt with efficiency issues from the field, three, and charity stripe.

Nevertheless, the Knicks now have an asset in Anunoby that provides a major upgrade from Barrett defensively and as a three-point marksman, while also improving their size on the perimeter.

In turn, the Raptors added more scoring prowess with Barrett and Immanuel Quickley alongside him. Should Barrett make waves in the headlines for reasons other than his play, Lowe will be proven right. For now, his labeling of Barrett may be a bit exaggerated.