‘It’s like breakfast!’ RJ Barrett credits teammates for improved shooting

new york knicks, rj barrett

New York Knicks‘ second-year wing RJ Barrett’s chip on his shoulder is getting bigger by the day.

All-Rookie Team snub.

ESPN’s Best 25 under 25 snub.

Anthony Edwards’ mockery of his missed game-winning shot.

But each time Barrett is getting snubbed and mocked, he rises.

The 20-year old Barrett has blossomed to become the New York Knicks’ No. 2 option behind All-Star Julius Randle from a questionable third overall selection after his uneven rookie season.

“My game speaks for itself,” Barrett said Friday ahead of his matchup with last year’s Rookie of the Year Ja Morant. “You know you can go and look at my numbers and our team’s success. It doesn’t really matter as long as I keep getting better as a player every day. I’ll be happy.”

For the first time in the last seven years, the Knicks are playing meaningful games this late in the season, and a big part of that is because of Barrett’s much-improved play.

His numbers have all gone up.

Entering Friday’s game, he’s averaging 17.5 points on 45/38/74 shooting splits with 5.9 rebounds and 3.0 assists against only two turnovers in 34 minutes.

Last season, he averaged 14.3 points on 40/32/61 shooting splits with 5.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists against 2.2 turnovers in 30.4 minutes.

His questionable jump shot has become a vaunted weapon in his arsenal.

“During the summer, I made little tweaks and adjustments, but I’m just getting reps,” Barrett said.

But he was quick to add: “All credit to my teammates. You see, Julius gets in there. Sometimes he’s halfway into a shot and kicks it out, and I get wide-open shots, wide-open looks. I mean, when you get wide-open looks like that from your teammates, it’s kind of like just breakfast.”

Since the All-Star break, Barrett is averaging 20 points on 47/44/75 shooting splits.

According to NBA.com tracking data, his three-point attempts increased from 3.3 to 4.3 per game, with two of those attempts coming from a Randle pass. During the same stretch, Barrett has been the top recipient of Randle’s playmaking with 19.5 percent frequency resulting in 11.9 passes and 2.3 assists per game.

In contrast, Barrett only ranked second (16.5 percent) to Elfrid Payton (25.8 percent) among recipients of Randle’s passes during the first half of the season.

The improving chemistry between the Knicks’ top two guys has pushed Barrett to take another leap. Barrett is making 53.3 percent of his three-point attempts coming directly from Randle since the All-Star break.

In the Knicks’ most recent twin losses in Brooklyn and Boston, Barrett has only missed two of his 12 three-point attempts.

“I don’t know if I’m surprised because I see the time he’s put into it,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “And when we’ve been home, he usually comes in every night to shoot and get extra shooting in. He’s really worked hard improving the shot, and I think he’s gotten real comfortable behind the line. And I also think his teammates are also doing a good job looking for him. We’ve had good rim reads and a lot of spray-outs, so they’re good-rhythm 3s.”

His game-tying three-pointer with 54.6 seconds left in their loss to the Celtics came off a Randle kick-out pass underneath the basket.

“He’s coming into his own and knowing who he is as a player,” Randle said. “Down the stretch, he’s getting to his spots. He’s playing well. Very comfortable and continuing to grow as a player.”

It was a catch-and-shoot, wide-open shot—the kind of shot Thibodeau wanted his team to take.

This season, Barrett has been shooting 38.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3’s, a significant uptick from 33.8 percent last season, per NBA.com. Since the All-Star break, he’s hitting it with much better accuracy at 43.3 percent on four attempts per game.

For Thibodeau, it’s not only about the volume of outside shots. It’s the quality.

“We just don’t want to take any three. We want to make sure that they’re good threes, where it allows us also to get back and get our defense set,” Thibodeau said. “So there’s a combination of the two things, but I’m very pleased with his overall progress, and I think he’ll continue to grow.”

That clutch 3 in Boston was Barrett’s redemption after his unforced error over the previous play that led to a Jaylen Brown fastbreak layup.

“After I had that turnover in the game against Boston, during timeout I went to the bench, and the whole team, everybody picked me up,” Barrett said. “I have to get it back. And then, you know, the next play, I made the shot and tied the game. So it’s great to have vets like that around.”

Thibodeau’s player development revolves around accountability. He doesn’t dole out playing time like it’s a gift.

Earned, not given.

It’s the opposite of the rebuilding that some teams and fans prefer, much like in Oklahoma City, where the Thunder management decided to shut down Al Horford and shipped away their other veterans to develop their rookies with a long leash on the floor but without veteran guidance.

Rookies Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokusevski, the undrafted sophomore big man Moses Brown and the Thunder young core have been putting insane numbers. But have also been routinely losing by a wide margin.

Barrett prefers the Knicks’ current rebuilding style, where they have a shot at winning each game, learning from pressure-packed situations.

Thibodeau and the Knicks front office have surrounded their young core with veterans who they can lean on and learn from.

“Most definitely,” Barrett said when asked if he’s benefiting from playing and sharing the floor with veterans. “They know a lot. The coaching staff knows a lot. So you know I’m kind of like a sponge every day. I’m going in and getting the chance to grow and make mistakes and keep learning. So it’s great to have vets. They always pick you up.”

Barrett made it known he wasn’t happy with the snubs. He laughed off Edwards’ comments.

So let the snubs and mocks keep on coming because Barrett likes to turn those chips into fuel. Like the wide-open looks. Like it’s breakfast.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Knicks’ RJ Barrett responds to Anthony Edwards trash talk

new york knicks, rj barrett

The New York Knicks fell to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday evening in a hard-fought battle, and that performance was far more indicative of their quality of play than a recent loss of the Minnesota Timberwolves, arguably the worst team in the NBA. During that contest, the Knicks once again forced the ball to Julius Randle with time winding down, but it was RJ Barrett who took the last shot to win the game, subsequently missing and catching a bit of heat from Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards afterward.

Edwards made sure to leave a comment that got into RJ Barrett’s head, stating that they desperately wanted him to take the final shot, and everything worked out in their favor.

“Gladly RJ caught it and if he made the shot, we would’ve lived with it,” Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards said. “Because that’s who we wanted taking the shot. We didn’t want anyone else taking it.”

Clearly, they believe Barrett is incapable of rising to the occasion and hitting big shots, but I would argue he’s well on his way to being a quality NBA player and hasn’t even scratched the surface.

Barrett isn’t one to take things personally, but this one seemed to get to him, utilizing a rare tweet to expressed his confusion in Edward’s comments.

“I thought it was funny,” Barrett said. “You’re right: I don’t normally tweet. I don’t know what it was about this one. I just felt like this one was an OK scenario to laugh at.”

This season, RJ is averaging 17.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.0 assists on .445 shooting from the field. His three-pointer has taken a massive step forward, hitting on .359% compared to .320% in 2019. At 20 years old, he has taken an extensive developmental leap this year, showing flashes of stardom.

Comparably, Edwards is in his rookie season at 19 years old, averaging 17.6 points and .394 shooting from the field. There is a primary difference between the two, Barrett is an aggressive defender who is rounding out his game in year two while Edwards is focusing on offensive contributions. I believe that RJ has a bright future ahead of him, especially with the Knicks as a hopeful star player.

Clearly, opponents are trying to get into his head, but RJ is more worried about playing basketball at a high level than being concerned with trash talk.

Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards takes ‘shot’ at Knicks’ RJ Barrett

Collapse, failure, disappointment. Those are three words describing the New York Knicks’ performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday evening. New York regularly dominated bad teams prior to losing to Minnesota, falling by just one point, bringing up a problem that has plagued the team this season. While the Knicks play suffocating defense, their offense has been lackluster, and their ability to hit clutch shots at the end of games is non-existent.

Even All-Star Julius Randle has struggled to put away buckets to finish off games, but Minnesota, who has won just 12 games this season, had a plan in mind to beat a Knicks team who previously lost a tough matchup against the Miami Heat.

The Knicks had the final possession of the game, an opportunity to win a close one and extract a victory against a team that had won 11 games prior to their win over New York. Minnesota small forward Anthony Edwards made an interesting statement after the game, indicating they desperately wanted RJ Barrett to be the one with the final shot.

“We told Jaden [McDaniels] try not let Randle catch the ball, we’re going to make someone else beat us,” Edwards after the game. “Gladly RJ caught it and if he made the shot, we would’ve lived with it. Because that’s who we wanted taking the shot. We didn’t want anyone else taking it.”

The Knicks need a clutch shooter:

The Timberwolves got the ball in the hands of RJ, who threw up a shot on a step-back jumper that nearly air-balled. While Barrett was fantastic in the game, scoring 23 points and hitting on 8-of-17 shots and 3-of-4 from downtown, entrusting him with the final bullet was always optimistic.

Barrett is better when driving to the rim, utilizing his fantastic speed and strength to outmuscle defenders. Despite hitting on 75% of his three-point attempts in the game, he’s not an elite shooter. The Timberwolves wanted to keep the ball away from Randle, who was shooting over 50% and is one of the game’s best baseline shooters.

Ultimately, this loss brings up a major problem, the Knicks’ inability to hit clutch shots. Just recently, they lost to the 76ers twice and the Brooklyn Nets on close-possession games, and eventually, the Knicks will have to add a player who has ice in his veins.

It could end up in Barrett or even rookie Immanuel Quickley one day, but they can’t wait around to find out if they want to be a playoff-contending squad.

New York Knicks have the right tools to navigate delicate Draft

New York Knicks, Anthony Edwards

There’s a great debate on what’s the best course of action after the New York Knicks fell to the eight spot in the NBA Draft.

During Rose’s first interview back in June, he already hinted at how the Knicks view this year’s Draft class.

“It’s interesting, this draft, there’s a couple of guys that might stand out, and after that, I think there’s a lot of equality,’’ Rose said. 

Perhaps Rose was referring to the enigmatic LaMelo Ball, their top point guard in their board, and Georgia’s Anthony Edwards. 

After those two young studs with the most obvious star potential, it’s going to be a guessing game.

“I think there’s a lot of guys that are close with different skill sets, different positives, different negatives. It’s funny, each scout, there are varying opinions. A lot more varying opinions than in past years,” he added.

With a roster lacking in star power, the Knicks are still years away from building a contender.  But with a Draft capital and a large salary cap space, they are also in a good position to accelerate their timeline via trades and the free agency.

The Knicks have a decision to make that could have a domino effect in their rebuilding plan. The upcoming Draft should be the first domino to fall.

The Minnesota Timberwolves and the Golden State Warriors have hinted that they’re open to trading the top two picks.  The Knicks are expected to survey the asking price of those picks.

“It all depends on what they’d have to give up. I do like the idea of Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball in a New York Knicks uniform, but at what price? I’m not sure I’d be willing to take out a second mortgage on the house to move up,” NBA Draft analyst Matt Babcock of Babcock Hoops told Empire Sports Media.

In a Draft that is so wide open, the Knicks are looking at all options, including sticking with their pick or trading down to accumulate more assets according to a source familiar of the Knicks’ front office thinking.

Even without a top-three pick, the Knicks could still wind up with the best player of the Draft, according to ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla. 

But even taking the next best available player at No.8 is tricky.

“I think general managers using the line “we will take the best player available” can be misleading. Each team’s big board is different and catered to their own team and needs. With that said, in most cases, a team “taking the best player available” would likely be a healthy balance of talent and team need, naturally, which is the way it should be,” Babcock explained.

Babcock, the former NBA agent turned Draft analyst, said the Knicks have plenty of options at No. 8.  It will just boil down to their priorities.

“Out of the group of players that I’m expecting to be on the board at that pick, I think the Knicks should take a look at a handful of different guys that could be good fits: Isaac Okoro from Auburn, Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams from Florida State, or point guards Tyrese Halliburton and Kira Lewis from Iowa State and Alabama, respectively,” Babcock said.

For a Knicks team that has so many holes to plug, it’s going to be trickier.  But in the Draft that could be without in-personal draft workouts and interviews, Rose and his team are built for this.

Draft intel should be king. And Rose has managed to surround himself with a solid team that has built relationships across and outside the league.  He has World Wide Wes and Draft guru Walter Perrin to lean on.  Kenny Payne’s connections in college basketball and AAU circuits could also come in handy.

“My general feeling is that if a scout does a good job throughout the year, they should have a good grip on a player’s on-court talent. The typical pre-draft process should be more of an opportunity for scouts to get a feel for a player off the court by interviewing them and doing extensive background research. Of course, teams haven’t been able to meet with players in person recently, but I don’t think teams are being held back from gathering the necessary information too much,” Babcock said.

Back in April, when Perrin was still with the Utah Jazz, he raised his concerns on the lack of in-person interviews in this KSL Sports report.

“With a phone interview, you’re not able to see body language,” Perrin warned. “In a live interview, you can see how guys react to certain questions that may not be facial. I feel you may get a better sense of how well they answer a question, how much trouble, or the struggles they may have coming up with an answer. I personally think it’s better to see them live.”

On-court performances are just the tip of the iceberg.  There are so many factors why amateur standouts don’t pan out in the NBA and why late-round picks or undrafted players become stars. Half of the equation is talent.  The other half is the mental makeup and character of a player.

“Personality for us is very big,” Perrin said. “Background intel is big with us. Certain franchises and I would not say us per se, but speaking in generalities, talent outweighs character, other teams would be character over talent, and other teams would be character plus talent. I would hope when we look at it character is big naturally, but talent is also big.”

For a team that has long been wallowing in dysfunction, it is a whiff of fresh air to have someone like Perrin in the front office. The Knicks must get this Draft right to have a foundational start in their rebuilding.  It appears that the new regime has the right tools, this time, to navigate this delicate Draft.

New York Knicks: Projected starting five with Anthony Edwards at point guard

New York Knicks, Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards will be a top-three pick in this year’s NBA Draft. The New York Knicks better hope the lottery is in their favor. If the Knicks land Anthony Edwards, they will have a lineup filled with talent and height. Usually, a point guard is 6’3″, that is not the case for Edwards. Standing at 6’5″, Anthony Edwards would bring a new system to New York.

Anthony Edwards at Point Guard (PG)

Anthony Edwards officially declared for the draft. The freshman made some highlight-reel plays at Georgia. He could end up going number one or dropping a few picks. I think he’ll be off the draft board before the fifth pick. In his freshman season, Edwards averaged 19.1 points per game and averaged 33 minutes per game.

As you can see, Edwards was on the court, basically the whole game. Out of all the point guards in the upcoming draft, this kid is the best one. His size and skill-set separates him from top guards. Not only is he a scoring machine, but he can also play lockdown defense.

RJ Barrett at Shooting Guard (SG)

This is a big year for RJ. Now that he has his rookie camping under his belt, Knicks fans are expecting big things. Even if RJ is not the leading scorer, I need to see him be a team leader. A lot of young players like RJ are looking to take the step to the next level. I think RJ can perform at an elite level with the right team around him. As a rookie, RJ averaged 30.4 minutes of each game.

Ignas Brazdeikis at Small Foward (SF)

Ignas Brazdeikis spent most of last year in the G-league. During summer league ball, Ignas balled out for the Knicks. It was shocking to not see him on the roster in 2019. He can be a dominant force and would add another southpaw to the starting five. An absolute shooter who can spread the floor and also drive the lane. He will be a big part of the Knicks offensive plans in 2020. Count on it, I promise you.

Julius Randle at Power Foward (PF)

Recently, there has been a lot of twitter talk about a possible Randle trade. I don’t think it will happen. Sadly, the New York Knicks will be stuck with Randle for another year. But look at the bright side, this could be a breakout season for Randle. If this is not a breakout season for Randle, We can say this free-agent signing was a waste of money.  Let’s not forget, Randle coming out of high school was a big deal. Overall, this season Knicks fans need to see improvement from Randle. If there is no improvement, he’ll be gone in my mind.

Mitchell Robinson at Center (C)

Mitchell Robison needs to stay out of foul trouble this season. On multiple occasions, Robison would get into foul trouble early in games. This was a blow for an already deflated Knicks lineup. With Robison playing center, the New York Knicks can really spread the court. Multiple videos have surfaced of Mitch practicing his handles and his three-point game. Obviously, he will spend most of his time in the post and cleaning up loose boards.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=En99l-4ZIc0&t=8s

Imagine how this Knicks squad would look if Robison added a quality jumper to his game. All Knicks fans know he owns the paint, hopefully, he expands his game.

Overall, the Knicks 2020 starting five is going to look a lot different from 2019. That’s what all Knicks fans are hoping for. Hopefully, we see improvement in RJ’s game and Julius game. In my mind, they have to lead this team.

This is what the New York Knicks should do this summer

New York Knicks

The New York Knicks are still in the early stages of a rebuild.  No matter what anyone says, they’re several pieces away from contending in the Eastern Conference.

The Knicks need shooters.  After the Marcus Morris trade, the team took a big hit shooting wise.  There are some shooters that may be on the market that the Knicks should try for.

The Sacramento Kings have a decision to make regarding Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic.  Hield was replaced in the starting lineup by Bogdanovic which left him feeling some type of way.  He’ll also be a free agent this upcoming summer.

Therefore, Hield coming off the bench is something that he doesn’t want long term.  A trade could requested since he’s unhappy.  The Kings may go Bogdanovic since he’s younger.

The Knicks are in the market for a shooter and they have picks to play with.  However, the picks are something the team doesn’t want to part with.  They could offer picks and a young player, like Kevin Knox.

Lauri Markkanen is another player that should be on the Knicks radar.  The excitement in Chicago as dwindled away with the emergence of Wendell Carter Jr.  Draft picks and a young player could be in player for Markkanen.  Adding a shooting power forward alongside Mitchell Robinson would be the perfect fit.

In the draft, the Knicks should and will target a point guard.  Whether that’s Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball all depends on their draft position.  If they decide to go with something other than a point guard, Fred Van Vleet needs to be a consideration.

Van Vleet will get big money from Toronto or somewhere else.  If they don’t pursue him, which most they likely won’t, the Knicks can run it back with Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina and whoever they draft, saying it’s a point guard.

Leon Rose and the New York Knicks will have a lot of options this summer saying this ‘new’ front office makes those drastic changes.