Knicks: Is it too late for RJ Barrett to break out?

rj barrett, knicks
Feb 27, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) reacts during the second quarter against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett has been in form for Team Canada during this summer’s FIBA Basketball World Cup preparations. The shooting guard has put on clinics versus some of the best international players in the world; most notably a 31-point performance versus Germany shooting 13 of 14 from the floor.

Entering his fifth season in the NBA, Barrett has demonstrated during the World Cup tune-up matches that he is more than capable offensively, but he will need to put it together in the States and carry on the production throughout the upcoming 2023-24 NBA season.

RJ Barrett is developing through international competition

The international game is much more fluid than what Barrett is used to playing in the NBA. However, the talent level is not entirely that of the NBA, affording Barrett an opportunity to have the ball in his hands more than he does with the Knicks, and allowing him to exploit mismatches early and often.

In the NBA, teams have consistent game plans depending on an opposing team’s personnel; a great example would be Barrett’s consistency driving left. It will be crucial for Barrett to grow his game, giving him a counter to opposing defenses cutting off that left option for him.

On a team with Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle at the helm, Barrett could be an X factor if he takes the strides necessary to improve his game. At only 23 years old, Barrett has more room to grow; he just needs more opportunities to do so.

Tom Thibodeau developing Barrett

For Knicks head Coach Tom Thibodeau, being all in on both sides of the ball is fundamental. Just this past playoff series, during a crucial Game Two win over the Miami Heat, Thibodeau benched Barrett in the fourth quarter. The young shooting guard was having himself a night on offense, but Thibs felt the team’s defense could’ve been better.

When asked about the decision, Thibodeau told reporters, “We’re asking everyone to sacrifice and put the team first. So sometimes, it’s just the way the defense is unfolding.”

Ultimately, the next step for Barrett will be becoming a consistent two-way player. His confidence is growing and his game on the offensive end is improving. But Thibodeau will accept nothing short of what he demands, and this will require Barrett to develop defensively.

The Knicks are still expecting RJ Barrett to breakout

Looking at the 2019 Draft Class, RJ Barrett is the truth. Throughout his career, Barrett has been an iron man of durability. While being a young basketball player in the noisy Big Apple, Barrett has taken criticisms and stride and never allowed the media headlines to take away from his game.

His relationship with Coach Thibodeau is a partnership culminating in winning and making Barrett an overall better player. On his relationship with Thibs, Barrett said, “That’s my guy, I was actually talking to him yesterday at the facility, he’s really my guy. He’s a great coach, I feel people have a tough time with him because he expects excellence.”

At 23 years, old Barrett has averaged 18 points and five rebounds through the first four years of his career. It’s only a matter of time before he breaks out and takes that next step as one of the league’s best young players.

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