New York Knicks: RJ Barrett gives hope for future success

(Photo by Ryan McGilloway/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Ryan McGilloway/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Despite struggling in the Summer League, RJ Barrett continues to hold superstar potential and the New York Knicks best bet at becoming a contender once more. 

Let’s take everyone back to May 14, 2019, a night that probably broke a few hearts. The night of the draft lottery was a chaotic one, which did not result in the player New York Knicks fans hoped for.

After processing the whole ordeal and the notion of “tanking” for Zion Williamson, reality set in, and this class’s top three still stood above the pack.

Williamson obviously holds name value and anyone who’s even remotely interested in basketball has probably heard his name. Ja Morant broke out this past year for Murray State and the Russell Westbrook comparisons kept pouring in. Then there was RJ Barrett, Duke’s “other” star.

With Williamson being a lock to go to New Orleans, everyone wondered who the Grizzlies will take at second overall: Morant or the former No. 1 high school recruit.

Let’s fast forward to June 20, the NBA Draft, with the Knicks on the clock and both Williamson and Morant off the board. Commissioner Adam Silver steps on stage and announces that the Knicks take Barrett at No. 3.

And just like a month prior I paced back in forth in my room, except this time I had a smile on my face, knowing we just hit the jackpot. Not only from my personal belief that RJ has the makings of a star but also he has the makeup to be an unselfish leader.

Barrett playing the role of “second fiddle” to Zion had to answer questions about his role at Duke. The new Knick responded by stating he is a team guy and he is willing to take on any role as long as it helps the team win. Proving to at least one Knick fan that Barrett’s mentality isn’t to put up numbers and look flashy but to do the dirty work in order to win.

Comments like that shouldn’t surprise many as he is the godson of one of the all time great point guards to ever play the game, Steve Nash. And Nash who watches Barrett closely praised the young guard.

From one of the greatest passers to ever play, to see potential in Barrett is a very encouraging sign. And we haven’t even mentioned how great of a rebounder Barrett is for a guard.

Now, let’s fast forward to July 5, a little less than a week ago Barrett, the newest member of Knick nation takes on his former teammate in Zion Williamson. All eyes are on this match up for multiple reasons and one of the players shined while the other seemed to struggle.

Although Williamson left the game early some would say he left a bigger impression than RJ who played all of 30 plus minutes. He struggled shooting the ball and the praise he received from godfather Steve Nash was not displayed as he finished the game with more turnovers than assists.

He would follow his first game with an equally less than stellar performance against the Suns which saw Barrett shoot 3-for-15 from the field. However, on Tuesday we started to see some flashes of the Barrett we expect as he posted a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. And he would follow that performance with another double-double against the Lakers.

With all that said we have to take something into consideration, this is a young 19-year-old man who’s experiencing his first taste of NBA Action, is he struggling? Sure, should we, as Knick fans, be concerned? Absolutely not.

What everyone saw in the first two games may only be an outlier of what’s to come for his future in New York. Furthermore, he seems to be gaining more confidence the more he plays which can only have positives for the fans.

To use two examples from last year, Kevin Knox lit the summer league up and although he wasn’t a disaster he did see his fair share of struggles this past season. On the flip side, the rookie of the year runner up, Trae Young, didn’t play his best basketball in the summer league or early on in the NBA season but was able to turn things around.

Barrett may follow the mold of Young, he may struggle early on but I do believe he has all the tangibles to turn it around and start to look like a star in the making for the Knicks.

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Playing in New York is never an easy feat, but, with patience, Barrett can lead New York to a new era; one that sees the Knicks atop the Atlantic Division down the road. Time is necessary for the rest to unfold.