How Knicks’ free agent signings will help RJ Barrett reach a new level

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The New York Knicks did exactly what they needed to do this offseason acquiring two players that can create their own offense: Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker. With the former Boston duo now sharing the backcourt in New York, one can only think that this will greatly benefit 3rd year forward RJ Barrett.

This past season, we saw much-improved play from the 21-year-old from Duke. Barrett increased his scoring, his efficiency, and his FG and 3pt FG %, all while being the second scoring option on a playoff team. He also improved his defense, becoming a reliable option for Coach Tom Thibodeau.

Where RJ Barrett Needs to Improve

If there’s one part of his game that needs the most work, it’s his shot creation. In 2020-2021, Barrett relied mainly on his perimeter game and finishing skills at the basket to generate offense. He only shot a combined 36% on field goal attempts from 10 feet to the 3 point line. Additionally, these only accounted for .156 of all RJ’s attempts. If he expects to take the next big leap as a scorer in 2021-22, he’s going to need to learn how to become more efficient at creating more midrange opportunities for the Knicks.

Barrett has been working this off-season diligently to improve his shot-creating and hesitation moves. Elevating that category will take pressure off Julius Randle to be the primary scorer, and with RJ’s ability to drive the rim, kicking it out to his sharpshooters will become even more lethal.

Fortunately, the presence of Walker and Fournier, two players that demand attention on offense, will give Barrett extra room to create and learn. He could also take after the two guards, who thrive from inside the 3 point line. Last season, Walker (in his worst shooting season since he was a rookie) still shot 41% from midrange, which was down from 47% the season before. Fournier, on the other hand, shot 44% from the same area while also seeing a big dip from previous seasons.

While Barrett’s scoring average may go down due to less usage, the play of the Knicks’ two newest additions will allow him to work on finding other ways to score and help him improve his ability to move without the ball.

There’s certainly a lot to look forward to this season, but how RJ continues to develop as a player will be one of the most intriguing.

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