NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 29: RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks smiles as the clock runs out in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on February 29, 2020 in New York City.The New York Knicks defeated the Chicago Bulls 125-115.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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After a yo-yo of a rookie season, New York Knicks shooting guard RJ Barrett may finally be about to turn a corner.

Josh Benjamin

At long last, RJ Barrett looks like a star.

Seriously, it’s as though the New York Knicks rookie is a whole new player. The former Duke Blue Devil is averaging 20.5 points per game and shooting 50% from the field in New York’s two March games thus far. Barrett has also shot 40% from three-point range and isn’t relying on his long-range game.

But that’s only part of the story. In fact, Barrett has looked strong over his last three games. If we factor that into the equation, Barrett has averaged 20 points per game and shot an impressive 57.5% from the field.

This all leads to one question: Has the Knicks’ dynamic and athletic rookie finally arrived? He’s struggled with consistent offense all season and looks out of place in a fast-paced NBA.

Make no mistake, Knicks fans. Barrett’s talent is coming out to play, and probably for good.

Blue-chip prospect

Let’s be clear. RJ Barrett entered the NBA with a lot of questions even though New York selected him with the third pick in last year’s draft. He only spent a year at college and averaged 22.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest. Those numbers aren’t bad, but Barrett also made just 30.8% of his threes and 66.5% of his free throws.

These meager numbers almost overshadow everything else, including his shooting 45.4% from the field in college.

But there was reason to believe in Barrett. He had only just turned 19 and would work out the kinks eventually.

And just like Mike Seaver, Barrett has had some growing pains in his first NBA season. He’s averaged 14.1 points, but made just 40% of his total attempts. He has made just 32.2% of his threes. From the foul line, Barrett has sunk less than 60% of his free throws.

It doesn’t end there. Barrett has also posted a -1 VORP on the year and can be a liability on both ends of the court. While he makes 57% of his layups (or attempts from 0-3 feet), he has shot less than 30% from any distance longer than that.

Clearly, there’s still work to be done in his young career.

Turning a corner

But in recent games, RJ Barrett looks like a different player. He’s creating more off the dribble. He looks more comfortable in shooting his threes.

All in all, he looks like a complete player.

Moreover, it’s important to note that Barrett started his NBA career during another messy New York Knicks season. Head coach David Fizdale was fired in December, replaced with Mike Miller. The recent Spike Lee drama is just another distraction.

Barrett has also been forced to create a lot of his own offense because of New York’s lack of a high-volume point guard. It’s hard to improve one’s offense when trying to create it as well.

Simply put, the Knicks don’t exactly provide ideal circumstances for a young and talented player to develop. And yet, Barrett has thrived. Recent hot streak aside, he’s fully avoided being called a draft bust despite his inconsistencies.

He’s still only 19, but he’s already looking like a better player compared to earlier in the season.

Final thoughts

The good news for the Knicks is that RJ Barrett is still that young. He won’t turn 20 years old until June, so it’s not as though he needs to drastically improve tomorrow. Development is a process and the current state of the Knicks means Barrett can take his time.

Except in the last three games, Barrett and the Knicks played harder than usual. There was a purpose, a competitive fire rarely seen on the floors of Madison Square Garden. And RJ Barrett was at the forefront of it, looking more and more like the No. 3 pick.

It’s taken longer than some would have liked but just like Slim Shady, the real RJ Barrett has finally stood up.

If he can stay consistent the rest of the season, then Knicks fans have a lot to be excited for in the future.

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