When the 2019-20 NBA season began, there were lofted expectations for a New York Knicks team that addressed their needs weakly in free agency. The best move they made was drafting RJ Barrett, despite being burned in the lottery yet again.
Barrett had a bumpy few months to start his young career, but he has emerged as a developing star in recent games, entering a conversation that holds both Zion Williamson and Ja Morant’s name in it.
Williamson and Morant were two of the biggest names coming out of college, and rightfully so for their overpowering and elusive styles of play. Barrett had the talent to be a star but was overshadowed by Williamson at Duke. Both have set the NBA ablaze, but Barrett is quietly climbing the ranks and proving his worth in the biggest sports market in the world.
The New York Knicks are proving they can compete with their young core:
On Monday night, Spike Lee might have thrown a fit and been scolded for using the wrong entrance, but the Knicks overcame a strong Houston Rockets team, thanks to a 27-point, five-rebound, five-assist performance by their friendly neighborhood, RJ Barrett.
At 19-years-old, Barrett is now averaging 20.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, all while shooting 59 percent from the field and 46 percent from downtown over his past three games. Those are young star numbers with room to grow.
â€œI think you see a guy that has a lot of confidence and has abilities to do things, and I think people are starting to see it,â€ interim coach Mike Miller said following Tuesdayâ€™s practice. â€œI donâ€™t see any big changes. I think heâ€™s growing as you would expect him to grow with the work that heâ€™s put in, with the talent he has.â€
â€œPrior to the injury, we were seeing a big jump in his production, and more importantly, his efficiency,â€ Miller said. â€œI think the big thing now is heâ€™s just feeling so much better. When he came back, it probably took him five games or so where he was feeling more like himself and doing the things he does.
â€œPhysically, he has incredible stamina and mentally, heâ€™s prepared for this. He really is. He has such a good feel for how to stay with it. He keeps a good perspective.â€
Rockets’ starÂ James Harden was jawing with Barrett during the Knicks’ win, but he expressed his confidence in the young Canadian after the game, stating that he enjoyed his spirit and toughness. Harden ensured the media that he is excited to see Barrett develop in the NBA.