The New York Knicks may not have landed that highly-coveted star this offseason, as their most buzzed-about target, Donovan Mitchell, was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers on September 1, but this is not to say that the ball club is heading into the 2022-23 campaign void of quality talents.
It’s quite the opposite, in fact, as they possess an impressive assortment of quality ballers, ranging from up-and-coming youngsters like Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley to former All-Stars such as Julius Randle and Derrick Rose.
However, arguably the most important player currently on New York’s roster heading into the new season is fourth-year wing RJ Barrett, who President of Basketball Operations, Leon Rose wishes to build the team around.
Since entering the league, the 22-year-old has managed to establish himself as one of the top young players in the game today as well as a true cornerstone for the league’s most valuable franchise.
However, though he has certainly proven to be a promising young talent throughout his NBA tenure, Bleacher Report’s Andy Bailey published a 2019 NBA re-draft on September 2 where the third overall selection from the actual night shockingly wasn’t even slotted into the top-five picks in this re-do, as he slid all the way down to number six on the board.
Citing Barrett’s shooting inefficiencies and his lowly ranking of 39 among other players drafted his year in career wins over replacement player, Bailey went as far as to say that, based on statistics alone, he believes the wing “doesn’t really have an argument for going in the top 10” in his re-draft.
That said, he would follow this up by insinuating that, due to his star potential, the fourth-year pro deserves his standing at six.
“For one thing, he still has the pedigree that made him the top high school recruit in 2018 and the No. 3 pick in 2019,” Bailey wrote. “Barrett has prototypical size (6’6” with a 6’10” wingspan) for a wing in today’s NBA. And he’s shown at least a dash of everything necessary to be a modern point forward.
“In 2020-21, Barrett shot 40.1 percent from three. He’s averaged 3.2 assists per 75 possessions over the course of his career. And he’s shown an ability to stay in front of guards and wings when locked in on defense. If he can meld everything together over the next few years, there’s still star potential here.”
Ahead of him in the re-draft is Tyler Herro, Jordan Poole, Darius Garland, Ja Morant, and Zion Williamson, respectively.
Of this group, Barrett has outscored all but Morant, trails only Morant and Garland in assists and has snagged more rebounds than anyone from his class.
On top of this, he is also one of just five players in NBA history to have surpassed 3,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 200 three-pointers before turning 22 years old, joining a prestigious group that includes Kobe Bryant, Luka Doncic, Kevin Durant, and LeBron James.
Knicks Committed to Barrett
Despite Bailey’s apparent qualms about him, RJ Barrett heads into the upcoming season fresh off a 2021-22 campaign that saw him post career highs in numerous statistical categories, as he finished with impressive averages of 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game.
In the process, he became the youngest player in franchise history to average at least 20 points in a season.
Due to his performance, coupled with his continued improvements since being drafted, on August 29 the Knicks rewarded the wing with a lucrative extension worth up to $120 million through four seasons.
With this, he becomes just the second first-round selection since 1999 to be re-signed by the organization, with the only other being guard Charlie Ward.
Since an agreement was reached, Barrett has shared his excitement about staying with New York long-term via video, which was posted to the team’s official Twitter account.
With his extension, RJ Barrett is now slated to be the highest-paid player on the Knicks once his new contract kicks in come 2023-24.
Knicks Eyeing ‘Next Disgruntled Player’
While the New York Knicks have some solid talents residing on their roster, the front office should still be open to the idea of adding on some extra high-quality players should one become available.
According to recent buzz, this is exactly what their plan is.
Per a September 1 report by Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knickerbockers are still very much interested in making a splashy move at some point in the near future and noted that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the OKC Thunder could be a possible trade target they could consider.
“The Knicks will be on the lookout for the next disgruntled player who goes on the trading block with Oklahoma City point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander previously mentioned. Ironically, the Knicks passed on him in the 2108 draft, much like they whiffed on Mitchell in 2017,” Berman wrote.
Gilgeous-Alexander coming off of easily the best season of his young career, as he finished the year off with averages of 24.5 points, 5.9 assists, 5.0 rebounds, 1.3 steals, and just shy of a block per game.
For his career, the fourth-year combo guard finds himself boasting overall averages of 18.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists.