RJ Barrett
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

RJ Barrett looked like an All-Star in two games against the Detroit Pistons, but preseason overreactions are a slippery slope.

Danny Small

The preseason is completely meaningless. Let’s set the stage early because it’s important to remember what games we are talking about right now. RJ Barrett looked phenomenal in the two preseason games the New York Knicks played against the Detroit Pistons. Dare I say it — Barrett looks like he might be an All-Star as soon as this season.

Barrett, 20, led all scorers in both games and did so efficiently. The Canadian-born wing started off the preseason by going 0-for-6 from the floor, but he was able to shake off the rust in the blink of an eye. Since that 0-for-6 start, Barrett has connected on 17 of 24 shots (70.8%).

Although the three-point shot is clearly still a work-in-progress (1-for-9), Barrett has had no issue at the rim and in the mid-range. For all the emphasis on threes, the mid-range still needs to be part of any superstar wing’s arsenal.

He’s a budding star for a team that is in desperate need of a bonafide alpha. If the Knicks are going to punch above their weight this season, Barrett needs to be the guy who emerges as the top dog.

Julius Randle is the high-priced “star” on the roster, but he might not be on the Knicks after this year (or even the trade deadline). Mitchell Robinson is a tantalizing young big with the talent to be a top center in the NBA, but he’s not a franchise player. Even Obi Toppin, the Knicks’ most recent lottery pick, is a bit of an unknown after slipping in a weak draft.

That leaves Barrett as the most logical star to build around on the roster.

Although the 2021 All-Star Game has already been canceled, we still expect the NBA to select All-Star teams. Could he be an All-Star in 2021? If he averages 20+ points per game and has the Knicks competing in the Eastern Conference, it’s certainly possible.

Is that an overreaction? Probably.

RJ Barrett’s All-Rookie Snub

If you believe that spite can act as a powerful motivator, Barrett has all the ammo he needs to make the All-Star Game as a 20-year-old.

The former third-overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft has a massive chip on his shoulder coming into year two. Despite putting up solid stats, Barrett was left off of the NBA’s All-Rookie teams in favor of guys like Terence Davis, P.J. Washington, and Rui Hachimura. The snub still sticks with Barrett.

“It bothered me a lot,” Barrett said in training camp. “Not going to lie. It bothered me a lot. I really don’t understand why I wasn’t on it. But it was motivation, motivation for next season. It was good to have an extra chip on my shoulder and just prove myself even more.”

Barrett’s shooting splits (.402/.320/.614) are the likely reason for his snub, but none of the other three guys mentioned had to shoulder the same kind of offensive load. The Knicks asked Barrett to be the second option on a team that finished 27th in three-point percentage.

The second-year wing appears poised to make a statement after being disrespected.

Again, It’s Only Preseason

In all likelihood, RJ Barrett will not be an All-Star in 2021. Two preseason games against the lowly Pistons isn’t proof that he’s poised for a breakout season.

Overreacting to preseason games is fun, but it’s unwise. Again, the preseason can be a mirage. Forgive the cross-sport reference, but the 2008 Detroit Lions went 4-0 during the preseason, only to finish the regular season with an 0-16 record.

We love what we see from Barrett so far, but let’s pump the brakes. The same thing can be said for the Knicks who are struggling. Dennis Smith Jr. did not show out well in his first two preseason chances, but fans should wait on grabbing the pitchforks and torches.

But no matter how you are reacting to these preseason games, we can all agree it’s great to have Knicks basketball back.

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