rj barrett knicks
Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

RJ Barrett is a budding young star who made massive improvements last year. It’s time for Knicks fans to stop feeding the trolls.

Danny Small

This part of the NBA offseason sucks. The draft and free agency are in the rearview and no one is quite sure what to talk about. For big outlets like ESPN and Sports Illustrated, it’s a time to release top 100 NBA player lists and send every New York Knicks fan into a frenzy.

It’s not just Knicks fans who scoff at these lists, but they are some of the loudest critics out there. It’s important to understand that social media only makes up for a teeny-tiny sub-section of Knicks fans, but this little group is currently up in arms about the rankings.

Most notably, Knicks fans are upset about the disrespect towards RJ Barrett. The 21-year-old made a significant leap in year two, becoming the No. 2 option on the fourth-seed in the Eastern Conference. This was just one year after he was snubbed by voters for the 2019-20 All-Rookie Teams for great players like Terence Davis, Coby White, and Eric Paschall.

The economy of RJ Barrett disrespect follows a consistent pattern. Someone (or a publication) underrates Barrett’s game and Knicks fans overreact. Credit to these social media warriors for picking up their internet torches and pitchforks, but Barrett doesn’t need a knight in shining armor to save him.

You can be sure that Barrett is working on his game in the offseason even though he isn’t flooding social media with flashy videos. That’s exactly what he did last year and he proved all the doubters wrong. In fact, Barrett told reporters that his All-Rookie snub put a chip on his shoulder.

Barrett missing out on meaningless top 100 lists might add another chip to his shoulder, but there is a better chance a playoff series loss to the Atlanta Hawks is doing more to motivate him.

Where can Barrett Improve?

The shifty wing struggled to find his offense in that playoff series. Despite a massive jump in his three-point shooting from year one (32%) to year two (40%), Barrett has yet to reach that next level as a guy who can consistently create his own shot.

Adding Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier should help space the floor for Barrett. This extra space should help Barrett get into more manageable one-on-one and isolation situations.

Barrett is still years away from reaching his peak. Progress is rarely linear and he needs to be ready for the ups and downs of development. Knicks fans need be too because the RJ Barrett “slander” — as many Knicks fans would call it — isn’t stopping anytime soon.

When Barrett takes that next leap, the argument is going to shift to “well, he’s not a superstar” or “he can’t help his team win a championship.”