NY Knicks: RJ Barrett has big leadership opportunity with Team Canada

NY Knicks, RJ Barrett (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NY Knicks, RJ Barrett (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

If you’re feeling deprived of NY Knicks basketball, you can go watch RJ Barrett, the Maple Mamba, ball out for Team Canada in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The recently turned 21-year-old is one of the most highly touted players on Team Canada’s roster and will have a massive opportunity to play a lead role on the biggest international stage.

NY Knicks: RJ Barrett has a chance to show his star potential on Team Canada

Before RJ Barrett made a name himself in the NBA, or even as a college star at Duke University, he had asserted himself as a member of Team Canada.

One of his most legendary performances to this day was his game against the United States in the U-19 FIBA Basketball World Cup, where he led Canada to an upset victory behind 38 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Now, he gets to represent his country at the Olympics.

Canada played their first qualifying game of the tournament last night in a 98-91 victory over Greece. Andrew Wiggins and RJ Barrett were the leading scorers for Team Canada, dropping in 23 and 22 points respectively.

This Team Canada roster is filled with NBA players, but the biggest star may be the 21-year-old Barrett.

The team’s leadership core is comprised of Barrett, Wiggins, and the talented young wing, Luguentz Dort.

There are other NBA players on the roster, such as Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Trey Lyles, Corey Joseph, Mychal Mulder, and Dwight Powell, but a large portion of the scoring and ball-handling load is going to fall on both Wiggins and Barrett.

This is a big opportunity for the Knicks’ young star to show his poise and mature leadership.

While RJ Barrett is already a heavily featured part of the NY Knicks team, he has a chance to carry a true franchise-player-level workload against other NBA players in these Olympics.

It’s a chance for RJ Barrett to get more shots up, create more for his teammates, and really, be a focal point of an offense with the ball in his hands. 

RJ Barrett took enormous leaps forward in his game in 2021 – His stronger finishing, increased consistency on defense, and drastically improved shooting were all major steps forward from his rookie season. Now he gets a chance to display his increased attributes but with larger responsibility.

A lot of his further development is going to be creating with the ball in his hands.

Can RJ Barrett effectively run the pick-and-roll? Can he shoot long-distance shots off-the-dribble? Can he be “the guy” with the ball in his hands late in games?

These are the “next step” areas of his game that he will be able to showcase in these Olympics, and he got off to a nice start on Tuesday night.

Considered to be a franchise cornerstone for the NY Knicks, RJ Barrett has a chance to show NBA fans what they’re going to be messing with next season.

Team Canada’s next game is tonight against Team China.

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