After a hot start to the 2022-23 campaign, rattling off three wins through their first four outings, the New York Knicks have dropped two straight games and, as a result, find themselves sporting just a .500 record of 3-3.
While there are many reasons one could point to as being responsible for the team’s recent struggles, perhaps the most buzzed-about contributing factor has been the severe shooting struggles of 22-year-old wing, RJ Barrett.
Inking a lucrative four-year, $120 million extension this past offseason to stay with the franchise through 2027, upon heading into his fourth year in the association Barrett was widely looked upon as being the clear number one option for this year’s Knicks team.
And while his usage and involvement within Tom Thibodeau’s scheme certainly point to this being the desire of the franchise, unfortunately, his efficiency whilst serving in such a role has been rather sub-par, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
Despite hoisting up a team-high 16.7 shot attempts per contest this year, RJ Barrett boasts a lackluster true shooting percentage of just 47.9%, ranking him 10th amongst his teammate and fifth amongst the starters.
As a result of these numbers, fans and media pundits alike are all simply left wondering what the best path forward could be to help pull the budding star out of his recent slump.
Frighteningly enough, it seems that Barrett himself is even confused why he’s struggling so mightily with his shooting stroke, going as far as to suggest that he doesn’t even know how to fix it.
During a November 1 media session, a reporter asked the wing what he believes to be the reason behind his inefficient shooting to start the season, noting that this has been a pattern for him since entering the league back in 2019.
In response, he said that he was unsure of what, in particular, to link his struggles to.
“I don’t know. Sometimes it just goes that way,” Barrett told the reporter. “I don’t really know what to pinpoint it to but it’s been happening and I think the goal is to try and just correct it quickly.”
Through six games played, Barrett finds himself putting up an impressive 17.7 points per game but is doing so whilst converting on just 40.0% of his attempts from the floor and 21.9% of his attempts from deep.
Knicks Coach Wants Barrett to Shoot More
Though RJ Barrett may not know how to improve his shooting efficiency moving forward, head coach Tom Thibodeau seems to think one specific approach could help in this area.
After New York’s October 28 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the head man was asked by a reporter what he has thought of “some of the looks” his centerpiece has received thus far this season.
In response, Thibodeau stated that he believes Barrett needs to just keep shooting for him to get out of his current slump and went 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.”
Throughout his four-year NBA career, there has seemingly been a direct correlation between how RJ Barrett shoots from the floor and the outcome of a contest for the Knicks.
During games where New York has won, the wing found himself converting on 44.8% of his attempts from the floor, 40.2% from distance, and 74% from the free-throw line.
However, in losing efforts, Barrett’s rates plummet significantly, as he converts at just a 39.1% clip from the floor, 31.0% from deep, and 66.9% from the line.
Knicks Wing Talks Firing of Steve Nash
Though the Knicks usually dominate the media coverage in the New York metropolitan area, their cross-borough rivals, the Brooklyn Nets, are the ones who are currently dominating the headlines, as the franchise made the bold decision on November 1 to part ways with their head coach, Steve Nash, after just seven games into the 2022-23 season.
After the news of the firing surfaced, RJ Barrett was asked to share his thoughts on the situation during a media session that same day.
“I actually literally just found out about it,” Barrett told the reporter. “I haven’t really had much time to process it, you know. That’s Uncle Steve. That’s family. You know, so, uh, I don’t really know what to say yet.”
Nash and Barrett have a strong relationship outside of the NBA and the game of basketball, as the Hall of Fame point guard played with the wing’s father, Rowan, for Team Canada during the 2000 Summer Olympics and is Barrett’s godfather.