Just how good can RJ Barrett be for the New York Knicks?
RJ Barrett is the best blue-chip prospect the New York Knicks have drafted since Patrick Ewing. Kristaps Porzingis may be a future perennial All-Star but when the Knicks drafted him with the fourth overall pick in 2015, his success in the league was far from a sure thing, including the fan reactions to him being picked in the draft).
As recently as the start of the 2018-19 season, Barrett was actually projected to be the best prospect coming out of high school into the college level.
But how good can Barrett be for the Knicks and in the NBA? His underwhelming summer league debut aside (give the guy a break, it was his first ever game and an exhibition one at that), let’s take a look at two possible career outcomes for the Duke rookie, comparing him to current/ex-NBA players.
Ceiling Comparison: DeMar DeRozan
It may seem like a lazy comparison at first glance: DeMar DeRozan cut his teeth in the NBA as the face of the Toronto Raptors, and Barrett is a Toronto native; but when you take a closer look, the similarities between their games are many. Starting off even with their physical profiles: their draft combine measurements were almost identical.
The two guards are both large, lengthy wings who are very athletic and can score in bunches. Not only that, but they also score in a very similar way: via athletic drives to the basket and elite mid-range games. Both players are able to get the basket and score at a really high level.
On the negative side, Barrett has been knocked as an inefficient scorer with questionable shot selection as well as a below average shooter. This lines up with DeRozan’s weaknesses as a player: he’s never shot better than 34 percent from downtown in his career and has averaged as many as 21 field goal attempts per game in a season.
Ultimately, if the Knicks rookie ends up being a DeRozan-like player it would be a big win for the franchise. The veteran averaged 21 points, six rebounds and six assists last year and has averaged as many as 27 points per game. He’s also a multi-time All-Star. When was the last time the Knicks drafted someone who could score like that?
Floor Comparison: Jalen Rose
Again, from a physical frame perspective, here’s another player who compares closely to RJ: a big, 6-foot-8 lefty guard.
Granted, the 13th overall pick in 1994 draft was not as accomplished of a player as DeMar is already and the Knicks would certainly want RJ to surpass his achievements in the league but Rose’s skill definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. The Michigan product was the league’s Most Improved Player in the year 2000 and averaged more than 20 points per game 3 times in his career.
How else do the two compare? They are both crafty scorers that can get to the rim at will and finish with their left hands at an elite level. According to Stephen A. Smith, he’s “a faster, more athletic version of Jalen Rose.” NBA legend Grant Hill also agrees, calling him more athletic than Rose as well and a crafty, volume scorer.
Even if RJ doesn’t meet the expectations of being a consistent all-star at the NBA level like DeRozan, having a player with a career arc like Jalen Rose’s would still be great for the Knicks. It’d give them another solid piece to add to their exciting young core of Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson and Allonzo Trier.
Regardless of outcome, it’ll be exciting to see RJ Barrett as a high-quality prospect suit up for the Knicks this year and get a chance to be one of the focal points on the team. While we wait for the season, we’ll get some more chances to see him put on a show in the meantime, when the Knicks take on the Suns at 9:30 p.m. ET.