Despite being the most overlooked young player in the NBA, New York Knicks wing RJ Barrett is turning into a star.
It’s time for the world to start putting some respect on RJ Barrett‘s name. The second-year wing is the most overlooked player outside of New York City right now. He’s becoming a bonafide second star for the New York Knicks.
Still, he’s consistently underappreciated on the national stage and that needs to change. It goes back to his rookie season when he was snubbed from the NBA’s All-Rookie team in favor of guys like Terence Davis (averaging 7.3 points per game this season).
Barrett, 20, entered this season with hopes of proving his doubters wrong. He’s done enough to change the narrative, but there are still enough bad RJ Barrett takes on Twitter than you can shake a stick at. Somehow, there is still this narrative that the former No. 3 pick is not living up to expectations.
Friday night’s stunning come-from-behind victory over the Memphis Grizzlies should help sway some of the skeptics. After only scoring five points in the first three quarters, the second-year stud erupted for 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, including three clutch free throws to tie the game in the final seconds.
Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau trusts the second-year wing in these moments. They needed someone to step up and push the comeback over the line. RJ Barrett did just that.
Ja Morant, who is rightfully praised as one of the game’s most promising young players, was held to just six points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Morant finished with the more impressive stat line, but it was Barrett who came out on top in this 2019 NBA Draft class matchup.
RJ Barrett had 15 points in 4Q/OT of last night's Knicks win. Most overlooked player in the NBA right now
Averaging 19.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.8 apg on .485/.484/.731 shooting splits over his last 25 games pic.twitter.com/4AYdoRDV7s
— Danny Small (@dwsmall8) April 10, 2021
It was only nine days earlier that Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards called out Barrett’s shooting in the clutch after he bricked a potential game-winner at the buzzer.
Although Barrett failed in the clutch against the Timberwolves, the stats say he’s performing in crunch time. He has a 19.6 net rating in clutch minutes while shooting 23-for-45 from the floor and 6-for-11 from three-point land. Julius Randle might be Thibodeau’s go-to guy when the game is on the line, but Barrett is more consistent in these moments.
RJ Barrett’s Shooting Surge
What was the biggest concern surrounding RJ Barrett’s game coming into this season? Shooting. He flashed more than enough slashing ability as a rookie, but only shot 32% from three.
In year two, Barrett is up to 38.2% from beyond the arc and he has a legitimate chance to eclipse that magic number of 40%. An ice-cold start hurt his numbers, but he’s been money from deep for the vast majority of the year. Over his last 42 games, he’s connecting on 45.4% of threes on 3.4 attempts per game. It’s not crazy volume, but Barrett is taking good shots — not forcing bad ones.
Most of his threes come on catch-and-shoot opportunities because teams have felt comfortable giving him an extra step on the outside. That won’t last if he continues to punish slow closeouts. Adjusting to the adjustments is going to be a key part of Barrett’s development moving forward.
ESPN 25 Under 25 Snub
How high is RJ Barrett’s ceiling? It’s hard to tell, but we know it’s higher than the widespread consensus. ESPN recently released its 25 under 25 rankings for players under 25 based on future potential. No Knicks made the list.
Mikal Bridges, Collin Sexton, Lonzo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton, John Collins, and Jarrett Allen all made the list. No disrespect to Jarrett Allen, but taking the Cleveland big man over Barrett “based on future potential” sounds like the kind of move that would get a GM fired.
Underestimate RJ Barrett at your own risk. He’s turning into a star before our very eyes and the rest of the NBA doesn’t even know it yet.