Despite being only 22, Barrett continues to exhibit substantial promise as a crucial component of a prospective championship ensemble.
However, with the Knicks likely to aggressively pursue star talent in the upcoming offseason, Barrett could become a central figure in the franchise’s executive negotiations.
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The Knicks face a daunting decision regarding RJ Barrett
As aforementioned, the past season was a disappointing one for Barrett, who had been predicted to make significant strides in his growth following a remarkable end to his 2021-22 campaign. During this year’s regular season, he averaged 19.6 points per game with a 43.4% field goal percentage and a career-low 31% three-point shooting rate.
On the face of it, his statistics might suggest a profoundly impactful season. Yet, when combined with the team’s spacing problems and Barrett’s regression on defense, the result is a disappointing season, particularly in light of the four-year, $120 million contract extension he signed the previous offseason.
Despite stepping up during the playoffs, which matter more than regular season games, inconsistencies now prompt the question of whether or not Barrett is the right third co-star to complement Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle.
The mentioned lack of spacing was a significant factor in the Knicks’ second-round elimination. The team managed just a 29.2% three-point shooting rate this postseason. Barrett’s inconsistency from the three-point line limits his potential as a superior three-level scorer, restricting him primarily to slashing on the interior.
However, his two co-stars also excel within, which significantly reduces spacing.
Brunson’s scoring strengths lie in mid-range shots and low-post play. Randle has the potential to excel at three-point shooting, but his size and raw power mean his best performances occur when he asserts his presence inside.
It’s increasingly apparent that Randle and Brunson form a formidable duo due to their capacity to score virtually anywhere on the court. They will likely require a wing partner who can defend and shoot three-pointers proficiently. The Knicks had hoped that Barrett would fit this role, but this may not come to fruition.
Consequently, the Knicks are expected to explore external options in the offseason to enhance spacing for the next season. Early notable candidates to watch include Brooklyn’s Mikal Bridges and Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns.
Given the competitiveness of today’s NBA market, if the Knicks aim to procure an All-Star caliber player to pair with Brunson and Randle, Barrett would likely need to be the central asset offered in a significant trade. Other teams will be intrigued by his potential and his youth and may look to nurture him into the star player the Knicks had hoped he would become.
Despite all the trade speculation, it’s easy to overlook the talent that RJ Barrett possesses. He has a remarkable work ethic and is always ready to make necessary adjustments to improve his game.
However, basketball is both a team sport and a business and sometimes specific players simply don’t mesh with the rest of the team’s dynamics. Regrettably for Barrett, this may be the case with the Knicks.
If the Knicks plan to elevate their offseason game and execute a blockbuster trade that transforms them into finals contenders, it might be prudent for New York to consider parting ways with Barrett.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @DylanBacker_