RJ Barrett Slammed as ‘Weakest Link’ on Knicks

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

Getty RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks reacts during a game against the Boston Celtics.

The New York Knicks just finished off the 2022-23 campaign with the fifth-best record in the Eastern Conference standings at 47-35 and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

Though all this coupled with their slew of offseason decisions suggests the ball club is perhaps on the rise heading into the upcoming season, there are still a few concerns with the makeup of the bunch and, as far as head coach Tom Thibodeau’s starting lineup is concerned, Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey believes their weakest link seems to be RJ Barrett.

“In 2020-21, his second season, he looked like a promising three-and-D wing who might be able to create a bit for others. But he’s been nightmarishly inefficient over the two seasons since then. He’s scored a whopping 299.1 fewer points than a perfectly average shooter would have on his attempts over that stretch.

“He doesn’t get to the free-throw line near enough to make up for that, and his defense isn’t really moving the needle either. Since the start of 2021-22, the New York Knicks are minus-1.7 points per 100 possessions with Barrett on the floor and plus-7.3 without him,” Bailey wrote.

After inking a lucrative four-year, $120 million extension last summer, RJ Barrett seemingly regressed in almost all statistical areas compared to the season prior, finishing the year off with averages of 19.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while shooting a highly inefficient 43.4 percent from the field and 31.0 percent from distance.

Despite being selected third overall back in the 2019 NBA Draft and, in turn, being viewed as a potential franchise centerpiece, coming in on five years into his professional career Bailey suggests the 23-year-old has seemingly created more concerns than he has hope.

Stephen A. Smith Suggests Knicks Swap RJ Barrett for Star

ESPN personality and lifelong Knicks fan Stephen A. Smith recently proposed the idea of the Knicks trading away New York’s “weakest link” during a July 25 episode of First Take, with superstar guard Damian Lillard being viewed as the ideal target in such an ordeal.

“Did you know that the New York Knicks have 11 picks between now and the year 2030? Did you know that seven of those first-round picks are their own? Did you know that they’re available [and that] they could trade eight picks. Now it won’t take that much, but they can afford to give up three or four picks, plus an RJ Barrett, plus an Evan Fournier,” Smith said.

“You trade RJ Barrett, you trade Evan Fournier, you trade [Quentin] Grimes. I don’t want to give up [Immanuel] Quickley, but if I have to I would for [Lillard], but I don’t want to give him up. You give up those three players and about three to four picks. The Portland Trail Blazer cannot possibly argue that that’s not enough assets.”

Stephen A. Smith would continue on by quelling any potential concerns over a hypothetical Lillard, Jalen Brunson backcourt, stating:

“You’re a closer Dame. Now I understand from a size perspective it seems a bit undersized in that backcourt, but you’d be coached by Tom Thibodeau, an elite defensive coach, you got Mitchell Robinson in the middle… I’m telling you right now, the temperament, the poise, the ability to produce under pressure, all of these things Jalen Brunson has proven. Obviously [Lillard has] too. So guess what — you can coexist,” Smith said.

Danny Green a Potential Target for Knicks

As things currently stand, the Knicks have two vacancies within their rotation in need of filling prior to the start of the 2023-24 season. In an effort to address one of these open spots, The Athletic’s Fred Katz recently suggested that Leon Rose and company should consider the idea of snatching up veteran Danny Green from the free agency market.

“He’d be an extra wing capable of guarding well and knocking down a 3. He’s a beloved teammate and would bring as much championship experience as anyone else would, considering he has been a starter on three different title teams and has played in 169 postseason games during his 13-year career,” Katz wrote.

A soon-to-be 15-year veteran, Danny Green possesses ample postseason and championship experience while also carrying the moniker of a proven perimeter shooting threat, boasting averages of 8.7 points for his career while cashing in long-range attempts at a 40.0 percent clip.

These attributes could prove to be vital for the Knicks, especially when considering they just capped off their playoff run through two rounds ranking as the worst three-point shooting team in the league with a success rate of just 29.2 percent.