The New York Knicks might have their young star, and he’s just starting to blossom

New York Knicks, RJ Barrett
Jan 22, 2021; Sacramento, California, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) holds onto a rebound against the Sacramento Kings in the fourth quarter at the Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

It is becoming clear that the New York Knicks are a product of their coaching, as their most recent three-game win streak has indicated a massive step forward in defensive play, and some of the younger players are witnessing fantastic development as the season progresses.

While New York is one game under .500, they are playing better than most anticipated coming into the 2021 season. During their three-game win streak, they held the Celtics and Magic to under 84 points, going on to trounce the Golden State Warriors 119-104.

One key player to their success has been second-year shooting guard RJ Barrett. Playing a team-high 36 points against the Sacramento Kings on Friday evening, he connected on 8-of-17 shots and hit both of his three-pointers. He finished with 21 points, three assists, and seven rebounds.

However, one game prior against the Warriors, Barrett landed a career-high 28 points over 37 minutes. His shooting has been spectacular, and his abilities in transition immaculate.

“We’re just trying to work hard and grind every day,” Barrett said after his dominant performance. “That’s really what we’re trying to do. We’re really focused. We’ve been giving it our all, and we’re going to continue to do that throughout the season.”

During his rookie season, Barrett averaged 14.3 points per game but has seen that increase to 18 this season. While the sample size is still small, head coach Tom Thibodeau has him playing aggressive defense and driving to the rim with confidence and elusiveness. It is always surprising what winning and confidence can do for a player’s psyche, as Barrett is compounding off his team’s success.

New York Knicks’ Thibodeau likes the way Barrett has responded to more attention:

“I think RJ’s played really well over I’d say like the last five or six games, playing at a really high level,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He started off the season where he had a big opening night and I think teams came after him pretty good. But he’s adjusting and even during the stretch where he wasn’t shooting particularly well, he was rebounding great and he was playmaking.”

When teams coin a specific player as a catalyst, they do everything in their power to shut them down to increase the probability of victory. Barrett was seen as one of those players, but watching him adapt and increase his level of play to match his opponent’s aggressive defense is inspiring.

The Knicks are gearing up to face off against a tough Portland Trail Blazers team on Sunday evening, and hopefully, Barrett can continue dominating the opposition.