Knicks: Can RJ Barrett reach his ceiling with current supporting cast?

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) pushes the ball up court against the Charlotte Hornets during the second half at Spectrum Center
Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

RJ Barrett has elevated his play in his fifth season with the New York Knicks. While his play has impressed, we may not have seen the most from him yet. Does he have room to get even better as the season and his tenure wares on?

Knicks: Would RJ Barrett Benefit From Sharing the Floor Less With Julius Randle

SNY’s Ian Begley said this regarding Barrett’s productivity with and without Julius Randle sharing the floor with him:

“According to Cleaning The Glass, those lineups are in the 97th percentile in point differential (+16.6), the 87th percentile in points per possession, the 97th percentile in turnover rate, and the 95th percentile in points allowed per possession.” Begley continued by saying, “Could Barrett’s counting stats increase if Randle wasn’t here? Of course. He’d have the ball more often and, presumably, take more shots. But the numbers so far this season suggest that Barrett sans Randle is not a bulletproof concept.”

The Knicks’ starting lineup has thrived after overcoming a slow start. Questions arose in previous seasons regarding whether Barrett and Randle, both of whom are left-handed, could break down defenses amidst efficiency woes.

This season, Barrett has been instrumental in helping the Knicks play with more aggression and get better looks on offense. He has not clashed with Randle when on the floor together. However, he helps the second unit featuring Isaiah Hartenstein, Josh Hart, Donte DiVincenzo, and Immanuel Quickley outscore opponents by 11.5 points per 100 possessions. Perhaps Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau splintering their minutes more could give Barrett more control of the offense when out there with the bench unit.

Barrett Can Still Improve and Look at Nets’ Mikal Bridges as Prototype for His Potential

As for his overall ceiling, Barrett can make changes to his present game that can improve his numbers on the stat sheet and help the Knicks’ offense flow even better. Interestingly enough, an area that Barrett struggles in is converting looks inside the arc.

While he shoots 41.2 percent from three with opposing defenders four to six feet away, he only converts 41.4 percent of his looks when he penetrates inside the line with a defender two to four feet from him. He’s only one of two players in the Knicks’ core rotation that shoots under 48 percent in that department.

Barrett can also benefit from more shot attempts as Begley noted. He’s down to 15.7 shot attempts per game, the lowest since his 2020-21 campaign. His per 36 minutes numbers show that he’d be a 25.3 point-per-game scorer this season as presently constructed. That is the ballpark in which Barrett has shown he can ascend.

Brooklyn Nets star Mikal Bridges offers a great mold for what Barrett can become with ample opportunity. Bridges was traded from the Phoenix Suns at last year’s trade deadline. As Phoenix’s tertiary scoring option, he joined the Nets and has put up 24.8 points, five rebounds, and three assists on around 18 shots per game since then.

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