Is Knicks’ RJ Barrett Ready to Ascend as a Free Throw Shooter?

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) dribbles as Boston Celtics guard Dalano Banton (45) defends during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

RJ Barrett has one thing standing in the way of his explosion as a scorer, and that comes in the efficiency department. After the New York Knicks’ first preseason game, Barrett showed that he may be turning a corner in that area.

Barrett Couldn’t Miss All Night for the Knicks

Fred Katz of The Athletic caught up with the Duke University product after he cashed out at the charity stripe in the Knicks’ 114-107 win over the Boston Celtics on Monday, Oct. 9. Barrett had this to say about his stroke:

“I’ve just had this same form for a couple of years now. I’ve just been working on it, so it’s more natural,” Barrett told Katz.

The work Barrett put in over the summer led to him going a perfect 9-9 from the free-throw line. It masked his inefficient night from the field where he only converted one of his six shot attempts.

In the preseason, marquee players usually look to get up and down the floor without sustaining an injury. While his 16.6 percent connect rate from the field shouldn’t be swept all the way under the rug, his free throw percentage and volume showed aggressiveness in the scoring opportunities he took advantage of and confidence in knocking down his freebies.

Barrett is Hoping History Won’t Repeat Itself This Coming Season

Barrett has yet to shoot 80 percent or better from the foul line in four regular seasons with the Knicks. He cited that as one of his major goals for the 2023-24 campaign. His best performance from the charity stripe came in their 2021 first-round matchup against the Atlanta Hawks where he hit that 80 percent marker on the head.

The Knicks as a whole were No. 22 in free throw percentage a year ago, converting 76.1 percent of their looks. They pressed the notion from a physicality standpoint and were able to get fair whistles from the officials. Only the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons got up more than their 25.5 attempts per contest.

Barrett continuing on this path is one step toward improving his shooting percentages. His 31 percent clip from downtown needs work. If he can replicate his career-high 40.1 percent clip from 2020-21 or come anywhere near it in conjunction with a polished approach to the charity stripe, he’ll be sure to garner votes from fans, coaches, and players leading up to the 2024 NBA All-Star Game and give the Knicks a better chance at advancing deep into the playoffs.

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