New York Knicks shooting guard RJ Barrett is criminally underrated in the basketball community, routinely being left off top-100 lists and rankings. In the latest offense, Barrett was left off ESPN’s NBArank, with several rookies getting the nod ahead of him, which is rather unexplainable.
Oddly, ESPN ranks Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green, two rookies, ahead of RJ Barrett, who established himself as a productive offensive scorer and adequate defender during the 2020-21 season.
Cunningham ranked 76th, ahead of players like Caris Levert and Knicks’ point guard Derrick Rose. Green ranks 96th with the expectation he will lead all rookies in scoring, which is all hearsay until he actually accomplishes that feat.
Realistically, unless you’re a generational talent like Zion Williams or LeBron James, any rookie making the top-100 list is spotty.
Looking at Barrett’s production from his sophomore season, he saw massive increases in several categories, including field-goal percentage, three-point shooting, and free-throw percentage. He enjoyed a slight increase in total rebounds and turned the ball over less.
He finished the campaign averaging 34.9 minutes per game, playing in all 72 games. He tallied 17.6 points, 3.0 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and shot 44% from the field. Barrett saw his three-point percentage increase 8% to 40% last year compared to his rookie season. With an effective field-goal percentage of nearly 50%, it is ludicrous he was left off a list that features multiple rookies who haven’t accomplished anything as a professional level yet.
The Knicks haven’t seen the best of RJ Barrett:
Heading into just his third year, Barrett still has three years left on his contract, including a qualifying offer for the 2023-24 season. The team has plenty of time to continue helping him develop, and with the additions of multiple scorers and facilitators, it will take a tremendous amount of pressure off him to force shots.
However, RJ paired nicely with Julius Randle last season, seeing a few advanced statistics increase with more minutes. The best part about RJ is his ability to finish in the paint using strength and elusiveness while also featuring as a spot shooter in the corner. Only 2.4% of his shots from three were unassisted, indicating that he found space and allowed his teammates to find him open. Nearly 30% of his total point production came from beyond the arc, while 54.3% of his points came from the paint and 7.0% from mid-range. He was able to create a lot of opportunities for himself, converting 64.7% of his two-point field goals unassisted.
Seeing clear advancements on offense and remaining aggressive on defense, it is crazy to think Barrett is considered more inferior than two players who’ve never enjoyed a single minute in the NBA. Hopefully, Barrett uses this as fuel for his growth and progression moving forward.