new york knicks rj barrett
Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks will face off against Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson this weekend in two more tests for RJ Barrett.

Danny Small

RJ Barrett and the New York Knicks have a huge weekend coming up. They play in Dallas against the Mavericks on Friday before welcoming the Pelicans to New York on Sunday. In both games, Barrett will be facing off with one of the best young stars in the NBA — Luka Doncic and Zion Williamson.

Although Barrett won’t be matched up directly with Doncic or Williamson, going up against these two will provide a barometer for the 20-year-old to measure himself.

If we are judging Barrett by his standing with the national media, he’s not in the same stratosphere as Doncic and Williamson, who finished first and second respectively in ESPN’s 25 under 25 NBA rankings. Barrett was left off the list entirely in favor of players like Jarrett Allen, John Collins, and Tyrese Haliburton.

But if we judge Barrett based on how he is playing this season, he absolutely deserves to be in the conversation with the league’s best young players.

To be clear, we are not saying that Barrett is on the same level as Doncic or Williamson. He’s not quite there yet. However, Barrett is the second-best player on a team that is fighting for home-court advantage in a first-round playoff series. We can’t overlook that.

Even though he struggled in his first NBA meeting with Williamson (more on that in a moment), Barrett has already knocked off one of the league’s best young stars. Last weekend, he scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime in a thrilling comeback victory over Ja Morant and the Grizzlies.

He’s averaging 17.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game on impressive .447/.377/.737 shooting splits.

Morant was taken one pick prior to Barrett in the 2019 NBA Draft and he checks in at No. 15 on ESPN’s 25 under 25 list. Morant’s final stat line looked prettier than Barrett’s, but it was the clutch-time performance that was the major takeaway from the Barrett vs. Morant battle.

Bounce Back for RJ Barrett?

Look, Barrett is having a phenomenal season, but we can’t ignore his last two games. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau opted to leave Barrett on the bench down the stretch of Wednesday’s win. The second-year wing is 4-for-21 from the field and 1-for-7 from three in his last two games.

All season long, the Knicks have figured out how to bounce back from slumps and losing streaks. Although New York is currently on a four-game winning streak, they need Barrett to show some of that patented Knicks resilience ahead of this weekend. They need him to be at his best if they want to continue their winning ways.

Even if the national narrative doesn’t jive with reality, keen Knicks observers recognize the potential. RJ Barrett still has a long way to go to get on the same level as Doncic and Williamson, but he has an opportunity to make a statement this weekend.

The Knicks will face the Mavericks on Friday night (9:30 p.m. ET) before returning home to take on the Pelicans on Sunday (1 p.m.).

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