As a whole, the New York Knicks have been firing on all cylinders as of late, as they’ve now won six of their last eight outings and are currently amid a three-game winning streak.
Unfortunately, however, the same high praise cannot be said about the club’s $120 million wing, RJ Barrett, which, as a result, has some pondering on how exactly he should be viewed by the franchise moving forward.
In a February 23 piece by Bleacher Report, writer Zach Buckley discussed each team’s biggest question as they resume play following the 2023 NBA All-Star break, and, when it came to the Knicks, he believes that Barrett’s role, both in the now “and in the future,” is the franchise’s biggest head-scratcher.
“His points have plateaued, his perimeter shot has abandoned him and his defense has come and gone. At this point, it’s not clear where he belongs in the Knicks’ pecking order. And that’s true of both the stretch run and the seasons beyond it. If New York makes the playoffs, he isn’t guaranteed to be a part of its closing lineup, and the belief he’ll be a building block for the ‘Bockers must be dwindling,” Buckley wrote.
Perhaps one of the most inconsistent primary players in the league this season, since the start of the new year Barrett has been shooting just 43.0% from the floor and 30.8% from distance, while the Knicks overall have boasted a -88 plus-minus with the wing on the floor.
Despite all the love the former third overall pick was receiving from the club coming into this year’s campaign and the reports that he had been working on some of the weaker areas of his game throughout the offseason, through 53 games played it appears the 22-year-old has only managed to regress now in year four, as his averages of 19.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists on 32.3% shooting from deep are all lower than his 2021-22 production while his box plus-minus rating of -3.0 marks as the second-worst of his career.
With this, it has those like Buckley questioning not only his fit in New York during this final stretch run of the season but for the many more years that are to come.
History Shows Barrett Could Step Up for Knicks
While it may be easy to worry about his seemingly downward trajectory in 2022-23, if RJ Barrett has proven anything throughout his career it’s that he can bring his level of play to special heights following the NBA All-Star break.
Since coming into the league back in 2019, the wing has consistently been electric upon his return to in-game action after the illustrious exhibition.
His pre and post All-Star Game stats for his career read as follows:
Pre All-Star Game: 17.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists on 33.6% shooting from deep
Post All-Star Game: 20.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists on 37.8% shooting from deep
Just last season, directly following the 2022 NBA All-Star Game, fans were witness to Barrett putting forth one of the finest performances of his young career, as he put up a whopping 46-point, 9-rebound performance against the Miami Heat whilst shooting 59.1% from the floor and 54.5% from distance.
Barrett has a history of stepping up his play during the final stretch of the season and many are hoping to see such a pattern shine on through during the club’s remaining 22 games.
Knicks Guard Confident in his Game
Unlike Barrett, Knicks guard Quentin Grimes finds himself in the middle of a career year and, as a result of his stellar play, was just seen taking part in the 2023 Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star weekend.
His improvements this season have caught the eye of both fans and spectators alike and, in a recent interview with legendary sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, he would go on to describe his on-court self in two words: “A competitor.”
“Offensively I’m trying to get a bucket. (I’m) trying to make every shot I shoot, I feel like it’s going in. Defensively, I’m trying to get a stop every time. Help side, on the ball, it doesn’t matter. Beating the gap, blocks, steals, whatever,” Grimes said.
Throughout the season, Grimes has proven to be a consummate professional with his focus primarily set on winning. In 49 games played this season, the 22-year-old is posting career-high averages of 10.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game.