Knicks Get Brutally Honest When Discussing RJ Barrett’s Early Struggles

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

Getty RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks reacts against the Washington Wizards.

Despite the fact that they’re currently boasting a winning record of 3-2 and place within the top-five seeds in the Eastern Conference standings during these early stages of the 2022-23 campaign, the New York Knicks, unfortunately, have had to accomplish such feats while their main franchise building block has severely struggled.

After having signed a lofty four-year, $120 million contract extension this past summer to remain with the franchise through 2027, expectations heading into the new season were exceptionally high for the likes of RJ Barrett.

That said, through five games played the wing has been wildly unimpressive when on the hardwood, specifically when it comes to his scoring efficiency.

Though his averages of 18.2 points per game are certainly solid on the surface, when digging a bit deeper into the statistics one will find that he’s posting such numbers whilst shooting a putrid 37.8% from the floor and 14.3% from distance.

In the Knicks’ most recent outing on October 28 against the Milwaukee Bucks, Barrett put forth yet another lackluster shooting performance, particularly from deep where he converted on one of his seven total three-pointers, making him just four of twenty-eight on the season as a whole.

Now, while some would argue that a much-needed alteration to New York’s offensive game plan moving forward should be a pullback on long-range attempts by the 22-year-old, according to the team’s head coach, the hope is actually to see him continue to shoot the ball.

Knicks Coach Wants Barrett to Shoot More

During the post-game media session after New York’s 119-108 loss to Milwaukee, a reporter touched on RJ Barrett’s shooting woes thus far into the season and, more specifically, during the team’s bout against the Bucks and asked Tom Thibodeau what he has felt about “some of the looks” the wing has received.

In response, the veteran head man stated that he believes Barrett just needs to continue shooting if he wishes to get out of his current slump, even going as far as to suggest that he could look to attempt even more shots moving forward.

“[If] you’re open, shoot,” Thibodeau said to the reporter. “The more RJ shoots threes, when he comes back at night and grooves his shot the better he shoots. And, so, the more he does it the better he’s going to be. I have a lot of confidence in him.”

Thibodeau would continue by saying that Barrett has “done it every year” regarding him improving upon his shooting efficiencies when hoisting up more attempts.

Throughout his four-year career with the Knicks, there has been a direct correlation between the wing’s shooting efficiency and a game’s ultimate outcome.

During games in which New York has come away victorious, Barrett boasts shooting splits of 44.8% from the floor, 40.2% from distance, and 74% from the free-throw line.

In losses, however, he sees his rates plummet significantly, as he sports averages of just 39.0% shooting from the floor, 30.6% shooting from deep, and 66.9% shooting from the line.

Though the Knicks have managed to rattle off several wins, including a three-game winning streak that was just recently snapped against the Bucks, whilst Barrett has struggled to find consistency in the shooting department, should the club wish to sustain long-term success this season, they’re going to need their cornerstone to start finding his groove on offense.

Knicks Could Target Underrated Wing

During a recent sit down with Heavy Sports’ NBA insider Sean Deveney, an anonymous Eastern Conference executive discussed how they believe the Knicks could look to retool their roster to better compliment RJ Barrett and his specific skill set.

When asked what players could be ideal targets, the executive mentioned veteran swingman Josh Hart as possibly being an ideal talent worthy of the front office’s consideration.

“A guy who would be perfect would be Josh Hart, who can rebound [well at] his position, can defend out on the perimeter, can knock down [three-pointers], [and is a] very good passer,” the executive told Deveney.

So far this season, the 27-year-old finds himself posting impressive averages of 10.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest on 37.5% shooting from deep with the Portland Trail Blazers while also leading their starting unit in both defensive box plus-minus and defensive win shares.

Throughout his six-year career, Hart has managed to establish himself as a trusty 3-and-D talent — a skill set the executive stated the Knicks could use within their rotation — out on the perimeter and possesses solid averages of 17.1 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per 100 possessions.