RJ Barrett has been on a tear for the New York Knicks to start 2022.
With the Eastern Conference standings so congested with teams fighting for playoff spots, this recent stretch of games has been vital for the Knicks to get back on track.
New York has won 7 of their last ten games and a huge part of that has been the recent play of RJ Barrett.
New York Knicks: The key to unlocking RJ Barrett
Barrett has been putting up big-time numbers. He’s averaged over 20 points in his last ten games.
The Knicks and Barrett have begun to figure out what works for him: Going to the rim.
Going into this season, it felt like the idea was that the Knicks had more scorers to take the pressure off of Julius Randle and that they would all take turns. Kemba Walker, RJ Barrett, and Evan Fournier would all be there to simply take turns.
It’s just not a detailed enough breakdown of an NBA offense. It takes time to learn how to play together.
Now, as the team has had time to figure out each other’s playstyles and gel together, those details of what works and what doesn’t work have come to light.
Barrett is the 2nd option in generating offense.
In terms of getting downhill, forcing defenses to rotate, and creating open looks for others, there is no one outside of Julius Randle better than Barrett.
Derrick Rose is the other Knicks who excels and getting to the cup but unfortunately, he’s sidelined for the foreseeable future.
The key stat: drives per game.
So far in 2022, RJ Barrett is averaging a team-high 15.2 drives per game.
In October-December, he was averaging just 8.2 drives per game.
It’s a drastic difference.
The number of times I’ve had to describe this distinction when discussing RJ Barrett over the last few years — He hasn’t been good at finishing at the rim, but he has always been good at getting to the rim.
It doesn’t even have to pertain to just scoring, but getting into the teeth of the defense is no easy task, especially for a young player. Rim pressure is where RJ Barrett excels.
He has gotten more focused on getting to his favorite spots when he shoots, he makes nice kick-out passes, and in general, he just makes the correct reads.
Treat him like the slashing wing that he is.
For RJ Barrett, getting him to go to the rim is what gets him into a rhythm. It’s what unlocks his whole game.
Players can be miscast as spot-up shooters. It’s the human element of the game for players like Barrett, who need to get into a rhythm. The spot-up shooting numbers will go up when he’s more comfortable and in rhythm with the flow of the game.
So while Randle will continue to burden most of the double teams, it’s become more clear that the New York Knicks succeed when Barrett is playmaking as well.
It’s not even a knock on Fournier. It’s just that he has shown to be more effective when he’s dancing along the perimeter.
He isn’t getting the rim pressure that Barrett does, but Fournier can thrive in that “microwave scorer”, sharpshooting role playing off of both Barrett and Randle.
It’s about halfway through the season and the New York Knicks are starting to get the wheels turning on their starting offense. They’re starting to gel.