Knicks Lead

Barrett Proving to Be a Top-Tier Rookie

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Knicks fans didn’t have their dream offseason, as they were unable to secure the first pick in the draft to select Zion Williamson despite having the NBA’s worst record. They instead fell to the third pick and failed to sign or even land a meeting with either of their top free agent targets in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. However, the team selected R.J. Barrett with their pick and he has been one of the best rookies thus far this season. Here are four reasons why R.J. Barrett is a true foundational piece for the Knicks and a potential all-star:

1) Scorer and Shotmaker

To quote legendary NBA Hall of Famer, Bill Russell, “this game has always been and will always be about buckets.” It might not always be the prettiest, as Barrett is prone to throw up some wild shots in the lane, but he possesses such a unique ability to get buckets by finishing through contact with acrobatic, above-the-rim finishes after slithering past defenders with euros all while still developing as a shooter.

 

After averaging 22.6 ppg at Duke, Barrett ranks fourth in rookie scoring at 15.8 ppg and has made visible strides as a three-point shooter, both mechanically and statistically (30% on 6.2 attempts per game at Duke, 37% on 3.3 attempts per game with New York). Right now, he isn’t an efficient scorer (15.8 ppg on 14.3 FGA per game) and it will be on the Knicks to find a point guard that can create easier scoring opportunities for Barrett as he continues to figure out where and how he can be the most effective as a scorer.

 

Furthermore, in his ability to get to the free throw line (5.6 FTA,1st amongst rookies), Barrett shares a common trait most high-level NBA scorers have. Barrett’s free throw attempts are on par with or better than current high-level scorers in their respective rookie years (Kevin Durant-5.6 FTA, Russell Westbrook-5.2 FTA, Donovan Mitchell-3.8 FTA, DeMar DeRozan-2.5 FTA, and many more). In order to take advantage of the easy points he is creating for himself at the line like the aforementioned scorers, Barrett must improve his 50% free throw mark.

2) Lead Guard Potential

NBA lead guards function as primary ball handlers who are relied upon by their teams to be consistent scorers and playmakers, especially off screens. While averaging 3.5 apg, trailing only Ja Morant amongst rookies, Barrett has flashed underrated playmaking skills out of ball screens as well as off the bounce via penetration into kick outs and drop off passes. By no means is he someone who will or should be your leading assist man, but he is more than capable of becoming a reliable playmaker that can share the load and lead the way at times.

Barrett has filled the starting point guard role for stretches¬†on both the collegiate and professional levels.¬†He should never be looked at as the answer there, but it speaks to the confidence a Hall of Fame coach in Coach K and a respected NBA coach in David Fizdale, have in Barrett’s skillset to become a lead guard.¬†Ideally, Barrett plays alongside a primary facilitator that puts him in a more comfortable spot of playing aggressively, looking to make plays as a scorer and playmaker, instead of facilitating the offense.

3) Defensive Potential 

By no means has Barrett been nor expected to be an All-NBA caliber defender, but he posses attractive defensive tools in his length (6’10 wingspan), strength, instincts and active hands (20 steals, 1st amongst rookies) to at least become a competitive and versatile defender. Because of his frame and tools, Barrett is capable of defending 2-4 and switching on to most 4s, preventing opposing teams from consistently exposing switches when he is involved in ball-screen actions. The key to unlocking his defensive potential will be staying engaged throughout the game.

4) Maple Mamba Mentality 

Barrett’s Maple Mamba Mentality represents his strong intangibles, which have been cultivated from his influences by Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash (godfather) and Rowan Barrett (father and former professional basketball player). The Maple Mamba Mentality consists of being ultra competitive, attacking challenges, always looking to learn, doing the little things to win and just being the ultimate professional.

Being the godson of two-time MVP Steve Nash and the son of a former professional basketball player, Barrett has a unique advantage of understanding the work ethic, preparation and all of the little things required to thrive and develop into a great player on the NBA level.

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