NY Knicks: Comparing RJ Barrett’s ceiling to other young franchise players

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

Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker are two of my top five favorite players in the NBA today. The other three, in no particular order, are Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, and Julius Randle. Randle is a recent addition since James Harden now plays for that other team.

The NY Knicks’ young slasher, RJ Barrett is absent from that list. The second-best player, arguably the future number one, on my favorite team somehow is not in my top five favorite players in the league.

NY Knicks: How does RJ Barrett stack up with other young stars?

You don’t have to go far to find evidence of my conflicted feelings about Barrett. My previous position has been that he should absolutely be on the table to land the right superstar for the NY Knicks.

If moving him is all that stands in the way of the Knicks having Damian Lillard, or potentially even Lillard and Leonard, then it’s time to move him.

At least that’s what my approach has been.

(Truthfully, that changes by the minute. If landing both Lillard and Leonard becomes a legitimate possibility…I dunno. I think you have to do it.)

In my head, I’ve never been able to imagine Barrett as a first or second option on a championship contender.

But then I thought about Mitchell and Booker. No one would argue that they are first or second options on well-constructed, title picture teams. Booker’s Suns are in the NBA Finals, and Mitchell’s Jazz had the best record in the league during the regular season.

Those guys had to start somewhere. The question is “Was that somewhere anywhere close to where Barrett is right now? Can he become the offensive fulcrums that they are”

Turns out the answer is yes. In fact, eerily so.

I have been developing my own metric for measuring a player’s offensive efficiency. In that metric, a 100 would be a player who is right at the league average in points per possession.

Here’s how this article’s Three Musketeers looked in their second year in the league:




As you can see, Barrett actually slightly bests two players who many Knicks fans currently covet.

It won’t even take a major leap in efficiency to get Barrett to Mitchell and Booker’s current level. For 2020-2021, Mitchell and Booker scored 90.8 and 91.5 respectively.

Couple that level of efficiency with the increased usage that comes from experience (plus a well-constructed team around them), and suddenly you have the makings for a young franchise cornerstone on a championship contender.

Maybe the best move this offseason is to avoid the temptation and remain patient. Make smart moves in the draft and free agency that continue to set the young players up for success.

Maybe it is time I start to expand my view of what kind of player RJ Barrett can become.

Maybe it is time RJ Barrett cracks my top five list.

If two of my current favorites are any indication, one day he probably will.


Next. 1 goal for each Knicks Olympic player. dark