Knicks’ RJ Barrett is holding opponents to subpar shooting stats this season

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) looks to drive past New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) in the second quarter at Madison Square Garden
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks forward RJ Barrett has gotten off to a very strong start to the season, and one of his most notable improvements has come from the defensive side of the ball.

RJ Barrett playing lockdown defense this season

In Barrett’s six games played this season, opponents are shooting 40.3% from the field when guarded by him, according to KnicksMuse on X. Last season, opponents shot 45% from the field when guarded by Barrett, so this improvement is certainly a step in the right direction for the fifth-year forward.

Barrett’s defensive contributions are a huge reason why the Knicks have been so successful on that end of the floor this season. Their 103.7 defensive rating and 37.8 defensive field goals made per game both rank second-best in the NBA behind the Timberwolves.

With how poor New York’s offense has been to start the season, Barrett’s defense meshed with other strong defenders such as Quentin Grimes and Mitchell Robinson are a big reason why they are 4-4 so far instead of having a worse record.

Aside from the offensive struggles he had last season, his defensive troubles stood out as a major regression, but if continues to play the way he has played so far in 2023, he could blossom into a solid two-way presence on the floor night in and night out.

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Barrett playing his way into a long-term role with the Knicks

Barrett came into the season with many questions surrounding his game and long-term fit on the Knicks, but so far he has responded to the critics and displayed strong performances on both ends.

Barrett will look to continue his strong start when he and the Knicks take on the Hornets at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Follow this writer on X: @DylanBacker_