When it comes to the New York Knicks, the 2022 offseason was a time completely engulfed by trade rumors galore.
Every day during this period, rumblings constantly were surfacing discussing possible moves the franchise could make, with the most buzzed-about hypothetical transaction being a blockbuster deal for perennial All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell.
The negotiation process was made rather public, and names that could be used as outbound assets in a potential trade were found surfacing left and right.
Easily the most noteworthy Knicks talent rumored to be available in a Mitchell swap was fourth-year wing RJ Barrett who, per an August 23 report by SNY’s Ian Begley, the Utah Jazz had a “strong interest” in acquiring.
Of course, no such move was ever made as the guard was dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers on September 1, leaving fans and media pundits alike completely stunned.
Now, with New York’s efforts ultimately failing, many believed that their consistent pursuits of Mitchell and the constant reports that Barrett was being included in trade offers could wind up impacting the 22-year-old’s psyche and morale moving forward.
During Knicks media day on September 27, the wing discussed the situation that was and was even asked what his reaction was to the buzz.
In his response, Barrett seemed completely unfazed by the summer storylines.
“I think lots of people’s names have been in trade rumors. The best of the best have been in trade rumors,” Barrett said. “A rumor’s a rumor. What ended up happening out of that is I’m in a [Knicks] jersey. So, I guess a rumor really means nothing.”
Barrett finds himself coming into the 2022-23 season fresh off posting a career-high in points per game last season, averaging 20.0 to go along with 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists.
With his efforts, the third overall pick from the 2019 NBA Draft wound up inking a new contract extension with a worth of up to $120 million through 2027.
Knicks President Praises Barrett
In a September 23 interview on MSG Network with analyst Alan Hahn, New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations, Leon Rose, discussed RJ Barrett and his freshly inked extension.
When asked what kind of message the deal sends, Rose spoke glowingly, uttering nothing but praise and admiration for the team’s fourth-year wing.
“The message that it sends is RJ, you’re a centerpiece of the New York Knicks,” Rose said. “You are a key piece to our future and to our success. He is a key piece to our core. We have a great young core.
“I mean, RJ’s 22 years old and, you know, he’s continually gotten better each season, he’s a two-way player, and, you know, his numbers are in the company of elite.
“His numbers are in the company of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and Kevin Durant. They’re the only other four players that by the age of 22, scored 3,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, and I believe it was 300 three-point shots.”
Knicks Have a ‘Front-Runner’ for Starting Two-Guard
During media day on September 27, Tom Thibodeau discussed the concept of the starting shooting guard position and, when asked point blank whether Evan Fournier was the “front-runner” to land the role, the head coach said one word — “yup.”
“The thing is we need shooting,” Thibs said. “The one thing that I know is that with Jalen [Brunson], RJ [Barrett], [and] with Julius [Randle] we have to put shooting around them. Right? [Mitchell Robinson] will give us pressure on the rim, so that’s what will force a defense to collapse.
“Evan’s proven. I thought the second half of last year he played really well, so I think we have good depth at that position.”
Last offseason, Fournier came to New York after signing a four-year, $73 million deal in free agency and served as the starting shooting guard for the Knicks in 80 contests in 2021-22 where he posted per-game averages of 14.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists on 38.9% shooting from distance.
Along the way, the 29-year-old set the franchise’s single-season record for most three-pointers made with 241 and finished fourth in the association in the category.