New York Knicks: RJ Barrett draws unique comparison to Kawhi Leonard

New York Knicks (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)
New York Knicks (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images) /

New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale said he sees similarities between RJ Barrett and Kawhi Leonard, but not for the reasons anyone would expect.

RJ Barrett‘s rookie season has started as well as the New York Knicks could have hoped. From a double-double against the Chicago Bulls to a 26-point effort against the Boston Celtics at home, he is tracking towards an NBA Rookie of the Year-esque campaign.

Barrett has found success at just 19 years old, and there is potential for him to continue this quick growth sooner than later.

Comparisons vary for each NBA player. Sometimes, they fit well. Other times, they skew in another direction. It is probably too early to decide who Barrett compares to the most, but Knicks coach David Fizdale sees his Kawhi Leonard in his star first-year player—somewhat.

Per Marc Berman of the New York Post, Fizdale said he never sees Barrett “break a sweat” on the court, and Leonard is the only other player he has seen do the same:

"“He’s really put together. There’s times he’s not sweating and I’m like, ‘Are you going hard?’” Fizdale said, “But he is. He’s playing really hard. The only other guy I saw who I’ve coached against that doesn’t look like is breaking a sweat is Kawhi. Kawhi doesn’t look like he’s breathing (hard). RJ has that same act where he’s out there, his face doesn’t change and he’s going about his business.’’"

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While it is not a skill comparison, this is still high praise for Barrett, especially given how small of a sample size he has for the Knicks, in front of Fizdale and the rest of the organization.

Thus, as Berman added, Barrett continues to receive heavy minutes; he has not played fewer than 31 minutes in a game this season, topping out at 40 against the Bulls, while averaging 36.5 per game.

Wear and tear are realistic as the season progresses, and for a player who played an abbreviated schedule in 2018-19 compared to the rigors of the NBA’s 82-game season. Perhaps it never happens, and Fizdale continues to have the same, tireless version of the Duke product throughout the year, but when there are multiple games in a week and strings of back-to-back nights, it could take a roll.

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Through six games, Barrett has averaged 17.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals on 44.1 percent shooting. He is the team’s leading scorer, with Marcus Morris (16.2) and Julius Randle (14.3) behind.