Former Knicks Coach Shares Damning Assessment of RJ Barrett

rj barrett

Getty RJ Barrett laying on the floor.

The New York Knicks missed out on acquiring Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz, and in doing so lost out on an opportunity to bring a star to the city.

It’s not all bad, though, as the team was able to snag Jalen Brunson from the Dallas Mavericks in a four year deal for him to become their point guard. While he flashed some star power playing alongside Luka Doncic, he’ll be able to showcase even more of his talents running the show with the Knicks.

With the addition of him and Isaiah Hartenstein as the backup center, it might seem like a safe bet for the Knicks to be locked into the play-in tournament, which can be achieved if they reach the 10th seed. Not so fast according to former Knicks head coach and current ESPN broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy.

According to Van Gundy, the Knicks aren’t quite a lock, and that might come down to the lack of star power in town, including RJ Barrett.

Van Gundy: Knicks Not a Lock for the Play-In

The New York Knicks secured the fourth seed just two seasons ago, and a lot of that was buoyed by the fact Julius Randle was named an All-Star and made the All-NBA team. That wasn’t the case last season and the Knicks suffered for it by finishing 37-45, missing the playoffs and the play-in tournament.

Despite the upgrades to the roster, Van Gundy told the New York Post they aren’t a “lock” to get back there this season either.

“The Knicks have good players, but you line it up against the competition in the East, and this roster is not on the same level,” he told The Post. “They could shock the world and be a playoff team, but I look at the East and I’d have to say eight to 13 is where they should be predicted. They’re not even close to a lock for the play-in. A lot has to go right.”

Adding Mitchell would’ve likely done the trick, and Van Gundy argues since they didn’t do that, there’s no actual star to build around in town.

”The one thing everyone can agree on, if the Knicks are to make a jump in the standings, they have to have a guy — or two guys — to build around,” he said. “They still don’t have that building block, from a star player’s standpoint.”

Van Gundy Low on Barrett & Others

While Barrett has signed a four-year extension, it didn’t come close to the max extensions Ja Morant and Zion Williamson signed with their respective teams, the two players who went ahead of Barrett in the draft.

The Knicks clearly believe in their guy, but Van Gundy doesn’t think he’s actually considered to be a star just yet, calling him, Brunson and Randle solid players, but not quite stars.

“I’m not being negative about those guys,” he continued. “Randle made an All-Star team, Barrett they hope continues to become a more efficient player. Jalen is in that category of fringe All-Star.”

It’s not as bad as it sounds, however, as he believes a team needs a top 20 player to build around to be successful, and the Knicks don’t have that yet. After drafting Barrett third overall, the hope is he’ll eventually get there, and perhaps he will, but he’s not there yet.

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