One of the New York Knicks‘ most valuable players is young guard RJ Barrett. Heading into his third season in the NBA, Barrett has three years remaining on his contract, with a maximum salary of $14.3 million during the 2023-24 season, when the front office can extend him a qualifying offer.
Barrett, who enjoyed massive up-swings in several categories during his sophomore season, is looking to improve even further this upcoming year. He posted 17.6 points, 3.0 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and shot 44% from the field last year. He also increased his three-point percentage by 8% to 40% and logged a 74.6% free-throw success rate, an increase of 15%.
Already being a solid defender helped Barrett get on the floor more frequently under head coach Tom Thibodeau, but the team has committed to him as their long-term solution at shooting guard. Last season, RJ played in all 72 games, averaging 34.9 minutes.
Thibodeau had nothing but great things to say about the 21-year-old Canada native during an interview last week:
“I think you guys have watched his growth. His ability to go off the dribble and get into the lane, his size, and also the way he improved his 3-point shooting last year, he made a major step. He’s made a huge commitment this summer. We think he’ll continue to get better; people tend to forget, he’s 21 years old. He averaged 18 points per game on a playoff team. He’s hungry, he’s driven. He’s smart, he’s competitive. Those are all the characteristics we’re looking for…. That’s why he’ll continue to get better.”
One of Barrett’s most exciting attributes is his ability to create shots for himself and others, seeing an increase in assists compared to his rookie season. If he can open up the floor for fellow teammates like Julius Randle and Evan Fournier, his impact will continue to expand.
Opposing teams focused on stopping Randle and Barrett during a dream turnaround season for the Knicks, but with added weaponry, the offense will have plenty of options to work with. At such a ripe age, Barrett continues to add muscle mass and increase his basketball IQ, which hopefully will aid in his growth moving forward. Barrett has been scrimmaging with Randle and a few other teammates prior to the start of training camp, further attesting to his work ethic.