NY Knicks: Responding to RJ Barrett being left off ESPN’s “Top 25 under 25”

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
RJ Barrett, New York Knicks (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, NY Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

NY Knicks: RJ Barrett has always been a budding star

ESPN, Rivals, 247sports, it didn’t matter which sports outlet it was, they all unanimously ranked RJ Barrett as the #1 recruit in his class. Barrett had already made waves in The U19 Fiba World Cup for Team Canada, where he dropped 38 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists in an upset win vs The United States. Barrett would lead Canada to the title.

The Monteverde Academy prep school star had won National Player of The Year and received offers from just about every basketball powerhouse college in the country and ultimately chose to commit to Duke, where his stardom would reach new heights.

Barrett became part of a “Big-3” at Duke along with Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish. The trio was about as high-profile a group of college basketball teammates as there has ever been – They dominated ESPN headlines.

Of course, Zion Williamson’s freakish athleticism made him the de-facto leader of the group, but he and Barrett both put up remarkable numbers. As a freshman at Duke, Barrett poured in 22.6 points per game on 45.4% from the floor while adding 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game – Huge numbers for The NCAA. Despite not being a natural point guard, Barrett effectively took on a lot of ball-handling responsibility at Duke and dominated in multiple areas of the game.

NY Knicks: RJ Barrett’s pre-lottery narrative

When Barrett’s college career had come to a close and he was preparing the draft, there was a clear top-3: Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett. That seemed to be the logical order for the top-3 that most agreed on, but the Morant/Barrett debate was alive, with ESPN listing Barrett and Morant both projected to be drafted 2 or 3. That was until, of course, The Knicks were slotted in the #3 slot. It went from a top 3 player draft to a top 2.

Even with Barrett becoming The NY Knicks’ likely pick, there was plenty of buzz around his talent. A tall, slithery scorer who had been in the spotlight for years now – A lot of teams were high on Barrett’s potential. Articles poured in about teams wanting to trade up to secure a potential franchise player in RJ Barrett. A physical freshman with a long wingspan who could project to be a high-level scorer, who checks every mental box you want in a young player. Who wouldn’t want to build around that?

Did RJ Barrett struggle in his rookie season? Absolutely. Who wouldn’t struggle as a rookie thrown into a massive role on the 2019-20 New York Knicks? Through those struggles, he flashed as a playmaker, shot creator, and high-level defender. You could see high potential, there just was not a lot of consistency.

Now, in 2021, he’s begun to put it all together. Let’s take a look at the stats and impact that the 20-year old Barrett has had thusfar in his sophomore season.