Should the Knicks bench RJ Barrett?

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) is fouled by Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) on the way to the basket during the first quarter at Paycom Center
Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks forward RJ Barrett’s struggles seem like they are nowhere near ending. He turned in yet another rough performance Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder in their 120-129 loss and it seems like his season is derailing.

Barrett scored 14 points on 5-14 shooting (1-7 from three) and had four rebounds and four assists. He also committed five turnovers, including a critical one from an errant inbounds pass with the Knicks down seven late in the fourth quarter, and was a -9 on the night.

In his last 18 games, Barrett is averaging 16.5 points and is shooting 39.5% from the field and 25.9% from three, according to KnicksMuse on X. This is a stark contrast from his first seven games of the season, where he averaged 22.6 points and was shooting 48% from the field and 50% from three.

RJ Barrett’s career has been weighed down by inconsistent play

Barrett is no stranger to entering prolonged slumps of inefficient scoring, but this one in particular appears to be the most alarming. It now raises the question as to whether or not the Knicks should have Barrett come off the bench until he regains his footing.

A potential solution could be to start Immanuel Quickley or Josh Hart in RJ Barrett’s place. When Quentin Grimes was struggling, he was benched and started to play well, and while the same for Barrett is not guaranteed to happen, it may be worth a chance given just how much his struggles are hurting the Knicks.

It is not unheard of to bench a typical starter

They wouldn’t be the first team to bench a player who normally starts in recent weeks, as the Warriors have had Andrew Wiggins come off the bench in recent weeks and the Lakers also started doing the same for D’Angelo Russell after both players struggled in the starting five for their respective teams.

In one way, Barrett already has a role established with the second unit, as oftentimes head coach Tom Thibodeau will use the fifth-year forward in lineups with the entire bench. However, the minutes distribution has been inconsistent between Barrett and some of the team’s more impactful players such as Quickley, which could have something to do with the rotations he runs with Barrett in the starting five.

The Knicks need to find more playing time for Immanuel Quickley

Wednesday night against OKC was a prime example of that. Quickley was virtually carrying the Knicks down the stretch and was a big reason why the game was still within reach for them. That was until Thibodeau subbed out Quickley for the ice-cold Barrett, and that’s when the game slipped away from the Knicks. Quickley played 25 minutes and scored 22 points while Barrett still played 30 minutes despite his struggles.

If the Knicks opt to continue starting Barrett as opposed to benching him, there should be a change in minutes distribution. Someway and somehow, they need to find more minutes for Quickley and take advantage of his consistently strong play.

In order for players to turn things around, a level of accountability from the head coach needs to be handed to that player. For Barrett, a change may be necessary, whether it’s his spot in the rotation or the amount of minutes he receives.

Follow this writer on X: @DylanBacker_

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