The Knicks have a new No. 1 scorer and his name is RJ Barrett

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With Julius Randle taking a significant step in the wrong direction this season, the New York Knicks have had to find scoring production elsewhere.

Randle has watched his three-point efficiency plummet to just 30.8% from over 40% last year but shot 43% from range against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday afternoon, recording 24 points but turning the ball over seven times.

The Knicks haven’t been able to sustain the same success they enjoyed during the 2020–21 season because of Julius’s regression, but shooting guard RJ Barrett has stepped up to the plate in the new year, showcasing phenomenal growth and development.

In the month of January, Barrett is averaging 22.4 points, 3.2 assists, 6.0 rebounds, and shooting 42% from three point range. He’s scored double-digit points in every game to start 2022, including three games with 30+ points. On Sunday, against the Clippers, he recorded 28 points, six assists, and a team-high 14 rebounds over 43 minutes. He also converted 60% of his shots from deep and 37.5% from the field.

Despite RJ’s incredible production, he remains humble with his words, showcasing a team-first mentality after the win over LA.

“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything so far. That’s my mindset. I’m hungry for more. I want more for the team, but for myself, as well.”

Head coach Tom Thibodeau has never wavered in his confidence of Barrett, continuously mentioning his work ethic.

“I think he’s growing every day, you see it. He’s playing at a better pace, which is important for us.”

The Knicks desperately needed RJ to take the step forward, and he is quickly becoming the team’s top-scoring option with Randle struggling this season. In fact, Randle is averaging just 16.8 points this month, the lowest since the start of the season. However, his assist numbers have taken a nice increase, dishing the ball to his partner in crime to handle the offensive workload.

“I feel Year 3, also just being with this staff and these guys for a couple years now, it’s a lot easier for me, because I’m out there on the court experiencing things, seeing things, just trying to help in any way that I can,” Barrett said. “I feel that leadership is not just what you say. It’s what you do, how you act, how you comport yourself in the facility, on the court, in the games everywhere. – Via Marc Berman of the NY post

“So, just trying to bring positive energy. And also, I think that the staff and the players have trust in me, as well, that if I say something or if I put my two cents in that we can have a conversation about it.”

If Barrett can continue to develop at this rate and maintain his production to start 2022, the Knicks will be looking at a legitimate star. However, Barrett has been streaky this year, enjoying a collection of positive games and going through cold streaks — it’s fair to mention his positive COVID case, which disrupted his momentum.

However, it seems as if he has a full grasp of the system and understands his positioning better with more experience. The Knicks will look ahead to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night as their next opponent, a team that has won 28 games this year and has emerged victorious in sixth of their last seven contests.