RJ Barrett’s 30 pts fuel Knicks win over Pistons: ‘He can lead a franchise’

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
Nov 11, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) drives to the basket as Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart (28) defends during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday morning, Donovan Mitchell’s bombshell — “RJ Barrett and hella [draft] picks” was what the Utah Jazz asked from the New York Knicks for him — made the rounds.

Later in the night, Barrett responded with his best game of the season leading the Knicks to a 121-112 win over the Detroit Pistons at home.

The nixed Mitchell deal cast a dark cloud over the Knicks’ rough start to the season as their six defeats came at the hands of the superstar-laden teams.

Barrett showed signs he could become one in a 30-point gem. Although his season-high scoring came against the lowly Pistons, missing their top player Cade Cunningham, it did not keep his teammate Jalen Brunson from making a bold prediction.

“I think [Barrett] can be an All-Star. I think he’d be a very impactful player. I think he can lead a franchise and that’s what he was picked to do here, and he can do it. And I have the utmost faith in him.

He works very hard. He has a great demeanor about how he plays. You never see when he’s frustrated. You never see when he’s having a game of his life. He’s always even keeled and I kind of have that same feeling when I play the game and so I’m seeing that from him.

It just shows he’s not afraid of the moment, not afraid of anything, and he’s capable of doing a lot of big things.”

Jalen Brunson via Knicks digital

The 22-year-old Barrett scored 20 in the first half. Then he punctuated his big game with two clutch free throws and set up Immanuel Quickley’s dagger to seal their bounce-back win from an embarrassing loss in Brooklyn two nights earlier.

Barrett was aggressive from the get-go, hunting for his shots. He had 12 points in the opening quarter, which set the tone for the win where the Knicks led by as many as 17.

Overall, Barrett was efficient, hitting 10 of 17 shots while adding five rebounds and five assists.

After a slow start, Barrett is trending upwards.

“In my three years here, [Barrett] started pretty much the same way. It’s a steady climb for him. I think if you looked at his numbers over the last five games, you can see he’s shooting the ball well now. When he’s shooting the ball, that really sets up his first step and I think the more aggressive he is going to the rim, I think he’s gonna get to the line a lot more.”

Tom Thibodeau via Knicks digital

Over his last five games, the 2019 third-overall pick averaged 23.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and a steal with a 49/41/77 shooting split. He’s making 5.2 free throws out of 6.8 attempts, a marked improvement from 2.9 out of 6.0 foul shot attempts in his first seven games.

Barrett was due for a big game, and the Mitchell bombshell may have fueled him even more.

Brunson pitched in 26 points and seven assists without a turnover while Julius Randle also showed up with 21 points, eight rebounds and five dimes.

Former Knick Alec Burks made his season debut with 17 points off the bench for the Pistons, who cut the Knicks’ lead down to four with 1:20 remaining.

Then Barrett took over.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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