With the signing of multiple starting-caliber free agents, the New York Knicks might have created more questions than answers. Drafting RJ Barrett with the 3rd overall pick should guarantee him a starting spot on the team, but after an inconsistent Summer League debut, it’s possible head coach David Fizdale elects to rotate him in off the bench.
Barrett, a natural forward, can play multiple positions, but bringing in Marcus Morris, Julius Randle, and already having Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, and Dennis Smith Jr. makes starting Barrett a questionable decision.
It ultimately comes down to the game-plan for the Knicks. Do they want to refine their youth or compete to win more than 17 games in 2019-20?
To start the Summer League, Barrett scored just 18 points in his first two games on sub-23 percent shooting from the field. In other words, he was atrocious, but these numbers and opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. Over the next three games, he scored a combined 59 points on 19-for-44 shooting. His efficiency skyrocketed and his quality was on display, but was it enough to convince the coaching staff that he’s capable of holding his own in an NBA-level game?
At this point in time, Barret might be the Knicks’ best isolation scorer, but he severely lacks a perimeter shot, something he will need to develop in his rookie season. RJ averaged six three-point attempts per game with Duke last year, hit on 30.8 percent. As an off-ball player, this statistic is worrisome.
Again, there’s plenty of time for the 19-year-old to refine his game and add to his repertoire — playing time is essential, though, I can’t imagine the Knicks not starting him in a regular role and expediting his progress. There’s no need to pull an Eli Manning and Daniel Jones scenario when the Knicks aren’t an expected playoff contender anyway.
They need to be focusing on their youth and extracting as much value as possible. I expect Barrett to play an influential role early and often to start the season.