What looked to be another off night for RJ Barrett turned into a night that the 22-year-old will remember for years to come. Boston was foolish to leave Barrett open in the corner with 29 seconds left to play in overtime, and with Celtics players screaming around him, he knocked down the biggest shot of the night to give the New York Knicks a 116-115 lead.
Barrett’s three-pointer, as well as the two free throws that he hit to put the score at 120-117 with 5.1 seconds left in overtime, are what Knicks fans will remember from Thursday night’s epic win.
He finished with 19 points on 6-of-18 (33%) shooting from the field and 2-of-5 shooting from deep. On the season, Barrett is averaging a career-high 20.2 points (up from his 20-point average last season) to go with 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He’s shooting 43.1% from the floor and 33.9% from three, which is the lowest he’s shot from deep since he shot 32% as a rookie.
In place of sending a package centered around Barrett to Cleveland in exchange for Donovan Mitchell, the Knicks opted to sign Barrett to a four-year extension. It was a move that most fans seemed to be in favor of, although Barrett hasn’t exactly lived up to the extension hype this year.
RJ Barrett needs to be more of a consistent factor for the Knicks moving forward
Like RJ Barrett’s done in previous seasons, he started 2022-23 out in a slump where fans watched him go through a period where he shot 10-of-43 from deep. In November, the first full month of the season, he shot 30.3% from three. When asked about what Barrett needed to do to break out of his slump, Tom Thibodeau referred to the 2019 lottery pick as being “steady.”
While Thibodeau admires Barrett’s consistency, it hasn’t always translated over to the court. New York’s win over Boston was a prime example of that, although things ended up working out for Barrett and the Knicks in the end.
There’s no denying that Barrett is currently the third-best player in New York behind Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson. The addition of Brunson has helped the Knicks win quite a few games that last year’s team would’ve dropped. Barrett has had his big moments, like the dunk over Scottie Barnes to force overtime, but his inconsistencies have kept him from being the player that New York needs.
Barrett turned it up after last year’s All-Star break, averaging 24.5 points in 37.7 minutes in 22 games. He set a goal with his trainer Drew Hanlen to eclipse the 20-point per-game mark on New Year’s Eve, and that’s exactly what he did.
It’s too early to say that the Knicks were wrong to not be willing to part ways with Barrett in a Mitchell trade, although the latter has had a great first season in Cleveland that has resulted in him being named an All-Star starter.
New York has the chance to make it back to the playoffs on the backs of Randle, Brunson, and Barrett, but a large part of that is going to have to do with how Barrett performs. Randle and Brunson have proven that they have what it takes to get things done on a nightly basis this season, but the same can’t be said for Barrett.
He has the power to change that, though, starting with tonight in Brooklyn against the Nets. It’s been over three years since the Knicks last beat the Nets, so getting a win in Barclays to push New York’s win streak to three would be huge. Wouldn’t it be nice to see RJ light Brooklyn on fire? Let’s speak it into existence.
The Knicks need the best version of RJ. There’s a reason why the front office invested in him twice, from drafting him No. 3 overall in 2019 to giving him an extension during the offseason. It’s time to unlock the next level of RJ Barrett.