The Knicks must be willing to trade guard with star potential

rj barrett, knicks
May 10, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) is fouled by Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin (16) during game five of the 2023 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

In their pursuit of a third star to accompany Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson, the New York Knicks may need to part with one of their young prospects possessing high potential.

The Trade Value of RJ Barrett

One of the most valuable assets the Knicks currently hold is 23-year-old guard RJ Barrett, who has become the center of attention in potential blockbuster trades. A team seeking a proven asset may look to secure Barrett’s potential, despite his performance experiencing a slight dip in 2022.

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Barrett’s Performance Review

Barrett averaged 19.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 2022, shooting .434 from the field. His three-point percentage stood at a career-low .310, but his effective field goal rate of .485 was only second to his 2020–21 season performance, which remains one of his best to date.

Although Barrett aspires to be an all-NBA defensive player, his performance last season was not up to the mark, as he posted a 117.7 defensive rating – the highest in his career and well above his 110.4 rating from two years ago.

Analyzing Coach Thibodeau’s Role and Barrett’s Confidence Levels

Barrett’s underperformance might be attributed to head coach Tom Thibodeau’s strategy in utilizing Barrett and his rotation or to a simple lack of confidence. If the Knicks can secure a superstar like Joel Embiid, they shouldn’t hesitate to trade Barrett, who could become the focal point at a different team instead of being third in line behind Brunson and Randle at the Knicks.

Evaluating Barrett’s Salary and Potential

Barrett is slated to earn $23.8 million in the upcoming season after signing a four-year, $107 million deal. His salary will gradually increase to a maximum of $29.6 million during the 2026–27 season.

Given that Barrett, at 23, is under contract for another four years, there’s a strong argument to be made that he could evolve into a star. Some have suggested trading him for the Toronto Raptors’ OG Anunoby, who at 26, is older, meaning Barrett has several seasons to reach his peak potential at a reasonable cost.

Barrett’s Inconsistent Performances and the Knicks’ Patient Strategy

Barrett has shown moments of brilliance in the past, but he has struggled to maintain consistent high-level performances. The fact that he has demonstrated quality production and only needs to bring it all together is an optimistic viewpoint.

The Knicks have adopted a patient approach, waiting for an enticing player to become available. While it doesn’t seem that management is actively looking to trade Barrett, they appear prepared to enter the 2023–24 season with him as their primary third option, unless a more compelling opportunity arises.