Basketball

RJ Barrett Has Taken Another Leap

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In the first few games of the 2021-22 season, it seemed that the new additions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier would freeze RJ Barrett out of the offense that he helped define the previous season.

Through those first four games, Barrett was averaging just 12.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 2.8 APG, with 39.1% FG, 26.1% 3PT%, and 60.0% FT% splits, a far cry from his sophomore season production. Since then, he’s had three great games, including two of his career bests. In those three games, Barrett has put up 27.3 PPG on just 15.3 FGA.

Shot Creation

In last year’s playoff, the Knicks’ lack of offensive firepower hurt them, as Julius Randle had to carry most of the load offensively, only seeing real help from Derrick Rose. Barrett had his moments, but his playoff series was an overall letdown, as he wasn’t able to penetrate the defense or create his own looks on the perimeter. So far this season, Barrett has been able to create his own shots, including stepbacks and pull-ups that he added over the offseason.

In New Orleans, RJ dropped 16 points in the 4th quarter, including a pull-up dagger from three with under a minute to go. While carrying the Knicks to their fifth win of the season, Barrett showcased his new moves, hitting a stepback three from the wing that we really haven’t seen before.

In the last few games, Barrett hasn’t had the ball a ton, but he’s been able to take advantage when he does. He still doesn’t have the playmaking ability that he needs in order to become a true superstar, but adding a reliable pull-up/stepback jumper is a step in the right direction. Last season, 93% of his 3PA were off of the catch-and-shoot, but so far in 2021, only 68% of his 3’s have been catch-and-shoot, as he’s added some off-the-dribble attempts to his repertoire.

Defense

RJ Barrett was always seen as someone with defensive potential due to his frame, but he struggled to keep players in check at Duke. In his rookie season, he wasn’t known as a great defender but he has continued to improve on the defensive end. This year, he’s been able to keep his opponents in check, including stars such as Jayson Tatum and Demar DeRozan. He was able to force tough shots from both players in the late stages of games, including stifling a game-winning attempt from DeRozan in Chicago.

NBA All-Star?

Although he was snubbed from the all-rookie teams, Barrett proved that he was worth the 3rd overall pick with a great season in 2020-21. In his age-20 season, Barrett helped bring New York back to relevance, as they finished the year as the 4-seed after being one of the worst teams in basketball for five years. Barrett is quickly becoming the best player for New York, and he’s inching closer to a 20 PPG average in Year 3.

He might just play himself into all-star consideration this season, as he continues to bring the energy on both sides of the ball. If the Knicks start to run more offense through Barrett, he could be an all-star, which seems to be the next individually for Barrett, who has already established himself as one of basketball’s premier young stars.


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