RJ Barrett’s faces critical 2022 for the New York Knicks

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
RJ Barrett, New York Knicks. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /
2 of 4
New York Knicks
RJ Barrett, New York Knicks. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

New York Knicks: Where has RJ Barrett struggled?

Before I get all negative Nancy, I’ll quickly highlight what was initially the biggest question mark for RJ Barrett — the long-range shooting.

We love talking about 3-point shooting in 2022, and Barrett came into the league with some scary shooting metrics and form.

To his credit, he has put in a ton of work into his long-range shooting — from the follow-through to the release time, his improvement as a shooter is a testament to his hard work and the power of good shooting instruction from coaches, but I’ll get into the positives later.

What you still notice with Barrett is a lack of a “shooter’s touch” and it’s something that pops up on all three levels of scoring.

When I watch Barrett play, it’s most visible in the “in-between” game: the floaters, mid-range shots, hook shots  — it just doesn’t always look pretty.

RJ Barrett doesn’t have that soft touch. A lot of his misses are hard clanks off of the rim or wide to the left or right. It’s not just the lack of soft touch, it’s the lack of vertical explosion.

So many times, RJ Barrett’s attempts at the rim are under-the-rim, non-authoritative finishes. He’s not getting those above-rim, easy lays that are so important for players of his archetype.

Finishing at the rim has been a real challenge for Barrett, and although there’s been a slight improvement since coming into the league, the numbers are still far from great.

RJ Barrett’s field goal percentage at the rim ranks in just the 36th percentile of perimeter players. 

He is shooting a porous 29% from mid-range, which ranks near the bottom of the entire league, in the 16th percentile.

It’s these areas where scoring comes naturally for a lot of high-end wing prospects.

Sure, players will add to their offensive arsenal as they spend more time in the NBA (which RJ Barrett has) but when your shooting numbers are near the bottom of the league in year 3, it’s not a great sign that it will ever reach an elite level. It’s going to take almost unprecedented development.

It’s not as if the opportunity hasn’t been there for RJ Barrett, who has been playing 35+ minutes a night for years now

A 46.7% effective field goal percentage is flat-out bad for a wing player, and it has nothing to do with circumstances around him. The game’s best young scorers aren’t going to rank this low and grade this poorly in scoring metrics, no matter how bad the team is around him.

This is why RJ Barrett’s NBA career has been so confusing. There are the indicators that he clearly won’t be an All-Star, but then there are the qualities that look truly special.