Knicks breakout candidate leads Team Canada to record-breaking victory over Lebanon

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Dec 21, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) celebrates after scoring in the fourth quarter against the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks star RJ Barrett is helping lead what seems to be Team Canada’s best lineup in history. Barrett bounced back in Team Canada’s recent win over Lebanon following a disappointing prior outing against France. He propelled his team to victory, looking like a seasoned pro primed for a breakout in the NBA.

RJ Barrett leads Team Canada to emphatic victory

Barrett is at the top of Team Canada’s roster productivity-wise. A poor shooting night from the floor in Canada’s last game versus France saw Barrett look to distribute more and play consistent defense. Despite going of 1-10 from the floor against France, Barrett came out against Lebanon with a team-high 17 points in only 20 minutes.

Alongside fellow NBA stars Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kelly Olynyk, the entire Canadian roster boasts seven high-IQ NBA mainstays. Canada pulverized Lebanon by 55 points, a World Cup record with 44 assists.

With an emphatic windmill slam to put Canada up 50 in the third quarter, Barrett showed the resurgence many expected of him following game one. Still consistent on defense and advantageous on offense, Barrett’s game is evolving. This evolution is apparent to Team Canada’s head coach Jordi Fernandez. Following Canada’s exhibition win over Spain, Fernandez said, “[Barrett] just finds everything within the offense and that’s extremely valuable.”

FIBA is giving underrated players a chance to shine

Sensationalizing Team USA in the USA is peanut butter and Jelly. Yet, the FIBA World Cup gives basketball enthusiasts a central hub to support their country’s best players. In the USA, the best players in the NBA aren’t necessarily born in the United States, as various nations’ best players move to America to play professionally.

The enthralling dynamic to see a favorite foreign player playing for their own country allows fans to see this player in larger roles, and more minutes being allocated to them. Guys that may be role players in the NBA are the most skilled players from their countries.

Can Barrett dominate for the Knicks?

On the New York Knicks, Barrett’s expectation of delivering maximum effort on offense and defense brings much criticism to the 23-year-old shooting guard. Expectations are near impossible to meet in the Mecca for the drafted star, yet Barrett shows a fortitude found far and few.

The rise of Team Canada is only a catalyst in the resurgence of the New York Knicks. Confidence is key and Barrett plays with plenty of confidence for his home country as they have obliterated the competition thus far. Barrett’s skill level warrants him a larger role than he holds currently on the Knicks. Being the playmaker in transition is just as focal to Barrett’s development as hustling on defense.

Knicks teammates Jalen Brunson and All-Star forward Julius Randle are cornerstones in their own right, but Barrett is the coveted star that was drafted by the Knicks. The patience of the New York faithful has seemed to hit a breaking point for some. This World Cup run is an incredible rep for two of the Knicks’ top three stars as they will begin the NBA year in mid-season form.

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