Without second-year player RJ Barrett, the New York Knicks would be struggling in some categories. Of course, All-Star Julius Randle has led their team to success this season, and Barrett has fed off of that production and efficiency. However, Barrett has taken massive strides forward in his point production, increasing from 14.3 in 2019 to 17.7 to the 2020–21 season.
In addition, he’s averaging more steals per game, rebounds per game, and his free-throw percentage has ballooned to .745. He’s shooting .445 from the field and nearly .400 from three-point land, indicating an increase in efficiency with his shooting.
“His shooting,” Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego said raved about RJ Barrett, according to ESPN. “You can start there. Just the ability to shoot the ball now. He looks a lot more comfortable, more confident in his shot. He’s made a lot more plays. I think his playmaking has really taken a step there — and a lot of that comes out of your confidence in shooting the ball.”
“I think players in general, when they can shoot the ball and they can get downhill, they get much more comfortable making plays off the bounce and making plays for other people.”
Barrett has quickly put himself in conversation to be the next star in the NBA, but he does have some weaknesses that need to be refined if he wants to take that next step forward. The Knicks will be looking to add another big-time player next summer in free agency, but they may already have a budding one on the roster to help push the steam forward and hopefully compete for a championship in the next few years.
One scout was a bit more critical of Barrett’s game, indicating that he’s not a star-level player and more of a complementary option. While I disagree with that narrative, he has certainly benefited from the rise of Randle and complimented him very nicely.
“I don’t view him as a franchise or star-level player,” a Western Conference executive said. “I think he’s a complementary scorer and bucket-getter. His shooting has helped his efficiency, but he still plays a lot off the bounce and hasn’t proven able to make those shots.
RJ has an opportunity to squash this narrative, as the Knicks have two competitive matchups against the LA Clippers and Lakers over the next few days. Stellar performances from Barrett might quiet the haters, as they desperately need him to rise to the occasion and help extract a few victories on this tough road stretch.