The New York Knicks are building something special after a surprising 2020-21 campaign that saw them reach the playoffs and secure the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. The majority of their players have spent the entire off-season working diligently to improve their skills and come back even stronger in the second season under head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Aside from Julius Randle, Immanuel Quickley, and several other key pieces in the Knicks’ plans, one player who has the potential to elevate his status to All-Star is guard RJ Barrett. The youngster averaged 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, shot 44.1% from the field, and 40.1% from three-point range, a career-high. He also saw his free-throw success rate increase to nearly 75%, which was a huge improvement compared to his 61% rate during his rookie season. If he continues improving at this rate, he’s bound for serious All-Star consideration.
Barrett has spent his off-season working on his shot creation and dribbling, giving him more versatility in the paint and efficiency from mid-range. Barrett participated in The CEO of Pure Sweat Basketball, spending time with players like Joel Embiid, Bradley Beal, Jayson Tatum, and more.
If Barrett wants to take the step to All-Star, he must find ways to create shooting opportunities for himself rather than be a kick-out option in the corner. If he can draw significant attention away from defenders, opening up the floor for teammates like Randle, Kemba Walker, and Evan Fournier, his status will quickly begin to grow around the league.
Taking a look at his advanced statistics, Barrett scored 29.4% of his points from three-point range, 54.3% from two-point range, and only 7.0% from mid-range. Adding an effective shot from the elbow will give him an entirely new element to his game. Itâ€™s about adding diversity to his shot selection and keeping defenders unbalanced.
Barrett has done a great job creating shots for himself inside the paint, driving to the rim. He has a 64.7% rate regarding two-point field goals made unassisted. However, when you take a look at his three-point field goals made unassisted, he hovers at just 2.4%.
His overall percent of field goals made unassisted was 48.2% during last seasonâ€™s campaign. If he increases that number to show he can score without others facilitating, his value will skyrocket. In addition, RJ will also draw more defenders toward him, which will maximize the Knicks’ other talents. He only averaged 3.0 assists last season, while Julius Randle posted a career-high of 6.0 assists per game. Ideally, Barrett increases that number which will directly benefit players like Randle, who operate in the paint and outside the perimeter.
At just 21-years-old, Barrett is headed into the third year of a four-year, $35.6 million rookie contract. The Knicks have the ability to pick up his club option next season and a qualifying offer at $14 million during the 2023-24 campaign. Fortunately, they have three more years to exercise Barrettâ€™s potential, and he could end up being one of the best players on the team with a bit more refinement and experience.