After the first four games of the season, some questioned if young guard RJ Barrett was ready to take the next step forward as a professional. The New York Knicks never wavered in their confidence in Barrett, and he showed resiliency this past week, indicating he has been given the talents to be a phenomenal player.
The past few games have been far more productive, ever since he indicated he usually starts the season slow and picks up steam as he settles in. Against the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday evening, Barrett posted an incredible 35 points, six assists, and eight rebounds. In fact, his statistics looked more like Julius Randleâ€˜s on any given night, who finished with just 10 points over 38 minutes. Randle gave way to Barrett in this contest, allowing him to ride the hot hand and showcase one of his best performances as a young player in the NBA.
The Knicks are seeing RJ Barrett become a man:
Shooting 12-of-18 and 6-of-8 from three-point range, he displayed shooting proficiency that indicates a big step forward this season. Even head coach Tom Thibodeau showed him the respect he deserves in crunch time, calling plays specifically designed for him to maximize his skill set.
“That was Thibs. He was running plays for me at the end. It’s kind of reading the defense. I know I’m the type of player who can have nights like that and I’m just happy that I was able to show that today. But I’m just trying to win really.”
RJ hasn’t only experienced offensive production over the past two games but has the highest DFG of any starter on the roster at 31.7%. He also has a DIFF percentage of -13, showing that when heâ€™s on the court, the team scores more points and stops more opponents.
The numbers show a quality player, but even Barrett was critical of his performance in the victory, stating, â€œI was terrible on defense today. That was not good.â€
The best players are the ones that find something to learn from and improve despite a great performance. Barrett seems to have that mental gift.