Despite losing ground in the race for Rookie of the Year, staff around the NBA are still impressed with New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett.
Barrett’s first-year per-game averages of 14.3 points and five rebounds won’t jump off the box score anytime soon. Nonetheless, he’s still impressing one Western Conference executive.
“Everyone is going to talk about Ja (Morant) and Zion (Williamson), for obvious reasons,” said the exec. “But I like RJ a lot. I think he can have a long, successful career in this league if he stays healthy.”
Back in January, I wrote a Film Room piece for ESNY, where I highlighted Barrett’s offensive and defensive strengths and weakness during the first half of the season.
My overall takeaway:
“I’m not sure that I see Barrett becoming a perennial All-Star…In the end, I think Barrett projects to be a productive player that impacts winning. His offensive efficiency and defensive production will take time to develop but he already embodies the city’s spirit of a blue-collar, hard-working player with a desire to be better.”
According to former Washington Wizards scout Bryan Oringher, Barrett has proved that he belongs in the NBA. Yet, similar to my sentiment, his overall ceiling isn’t as high as some would hope.
“RJ has had a very solid season overall…he’s very solid, high IQ, plays hard, defends, can pass, go left. But I just don’t see a superstar ceiling.”
As it stands, Barrett certainly possesses the time to change those projections. It must start with his shooting though. Specifically, his free-throw shooting.
The former Duke standout is currently making 61.4% of his shots from the stripe this season. Scouts feel that Barrett’s consistency as both a free-throw and mid-range shooter are the key factors tied to his potential.
Current freelance NBA scout Bobby Gonzalez on Barrett:
“I think the biggest thing for him — the difference, to me, from RJ Barrett going from a good player to a promising rookie to a great player and possibly an All-Star someday — is his shooting. He’s such an aggressive player that attacks the rim and he’s unorthodox, so he gets fouled so much so he’s got to improve his free-throw percentage. That’s going to be a big, big deal for him. He’s got to be able to get his free throws up into the 70s, even 80s someday.”
Barrett’s learning curve has been steep. He was rightfully thrown into the starting lineup on day one and has demonstrated a professional approach to the game.
The sky is the limit for the No. 3 overall pick. Knicks fans should rejoice that they have someone like Barrett on their team.