RJ Barrett
AP Photo/John Locher

James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo are two superstars New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett is looking forward to playing against.

As the third overall pick in this year’s draft, RJ Barrett is coming to the New York Knicks with a good deal of hype. Some rookies end up looking like a deer in headlights when they’re facing off against the cream of the crop in the NBA.

For Barrett, he’s actually chomping at the bit to face those types of players. Most notably, the Duke product wants to take the floor against James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo.


“It’s weird, because [LeBron James] has always been my favorite player, but I’m actually kind of more looking forward to playing against James Harden because that would definitely be my matchup at my position,” Barrett said when asked who he is looking forward to playing against. “James Harden and definitely Giannis because those guys are like — some of the stuff I’ve never seen before.”

Above all, Barrett seems eager to take on a challenging defensive assignment. He won’t face a tougher matchup than when he meets Harden twice next season. Not to mention, Harden erupted for 61 points at Madison Square Garden last season.

But Barrett also understands the league is about more than star talent. Sure, he’s the No. 3 pick and the talk of the town, but everyone in the NBA can play.

“The thing about the NBA is it’s the best players in the world, so it doesn’t matter,” Barrett said. “Even if they’re not an All-Star, they’re still good. Everybody’s good. Everybody’s going to do their thing every single night, so you’ve just got to try to make it as hard on them as you can and then you’ve got to play better on offense.”

Barrett also mentions that if he does end up guarding Antetokounmpo, it will be after some type of switch. It’s nearly impossible to stop the Greek Freak in a one-on-one situation. However, as Barrett points out, he’ll have Mitchell Robinson roaming the paint to clean up after anyone’s mistake.

The rookie already seems to possess the focus and demeanor to succeed in New York. Of course, his play on the court matters more than anything. At the very least, Barrett is saying all the right things.

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.