1) Diversify RJ Barrett’s Shot Profile
Looking at RJ Barrett’s shot profile during his rookie season, there’s a significant room for improvement. Barrett shot 39.2% of his shots within 3 feet, but only at a 56.8% rate, according to NBA.com. Barrett shot 33.8% of his shots between low-to-mid range, but at a sub 30% clip. Barrett shot 27.1% of his shots beyond the three point arc, but only at 32% accuracy.
As a point of disclaimer, the Knicks deployed a very suboptimal lineup during the 2019-20 season. They were not a very good perimeter shooting squad, further amplified by being a bottom-3 finish in all three-point metrics. This meant Barrett driving into the lane and into a pool of defenders, often resulting in very bad misses at or near the rim.
There are certain areas where Barrett can take advantage of his strengths. For example, Barrett was a 37.5% shooter from the left corner 3 position. Of the 3.5 threes/game, Barrett only attempted 20% of those shots from the left corner 3. His favorite shot was the 3 above the break, where he attempted the majority of his shots at only a 30% clip.
In his first radio interview after the initial press conference, Thibs specifically emphasized the corner 3 in the quote below:
"If you’re getting layups and you’re getting to the free-throw line and obviously you’re trying to create as many corner 3-point attempts as you can – that’s how you win"
One good starting point for Barrett is re-allocating some of his three-point attempts to corner threes. By simply taking more from the left corner, Barrett can potentially become a 35% three point shooter, not a bad mark for an NBA player. Consequently, this also spaces the floor a bit better for the rest of his teammates. Barrett shows how valuable the threat of a corner 3 can be earlier this season in a blowout loss against the top seed Milwaukee Bucks.
Barrett also faces a similar problem of trying to force his way into scoring two points in the paint. He attempts to use his strength to either draw fouls or score buckets, often leading to very bad shot attempts, easy rebounds for the opposition, and an easier bucket on the other end. Like most young players, RJ falls in trouble the moment he tries to go 1v1. Of all his field goal attempts, 31.5% came with no dribbles and he got 41.7%. His most optimal situation came with just one dribble, where he shot 44.% from the field. However, Barrett only attempted 11.2% of his shots off just one dribble. He took 15.1% of his shots off 2 dribbles, making only 35.8% of those shots; he shot a paltry 39.3% from the field when he attempted 3-6 dribbles.
The translation to these numbers is the following: RJ’s efficiency plummets the moment he falls into isolation mode. Thibs can help reinforce the importance of making quicker decisions. Additionally, a more sturdy point guard option and better perimeter scoring threats can limit a lot of RJ’s bad shot selection while also freeing up the floor for him to drive into the paint and take higher quality shots. Thibs has experience working with somewhat flawed perimeter shooting wings in Jimmy Butler & Andrew Wiggins. RJ will be an interesting project for sure.