3 Goals for Knicks’ RJ Barrett to take his game to the next level

RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /
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Barring a surprise blockbuster trade, the New York Knicks will be returning most of the same rotation that helped them secure a trip to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

The front office hopes the shooting boost provided by free agent signing Donte DiVincenzo and a full season of Josh Hart will elevate the team’s ceiling. They’ll also depend on the star-caliber play of Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle, as well as the continued development of their young core.

Speaking of New York’s young core, RJ Barrett’s upcoming fifth year will be a pivotal one in his development. Here are three goals he can achieve to help both himself and the Knicks have an even better 2023-24 season.

3 Goals for RJ Barrett to accomplish with the Knicks in 2023-24

3: Improve as a floor spacer

Three-point marksmanship has never been Barrett’s strong suit, dating all the way back to his college days at Duke. However, he’s shown glimpses of becoming an efficient shooter from behind the arc.

He’s hit just 33% of his triples over the past two seasons, but his high volume of attempts (5.6 per game) has still been enough to keep defenses from treating him like Ben Simmons.

This has led to some promising shooting displays on certain nights, such as a December matchup against the Chicago Bulls, where Barrett went 6-for-6 from deep. He also connected on five triples in Game 2 against the Miami Heat, helping New York secure a second-round postseason win.

It’s easy to say he must become a more consistent shooter, but he needs to specifically operate better as a floor spacer for Brunson and Randle. In other words, improve his catch-and-shoot capabilities.

Barrett shot 32.3% on catch-and-shoot threes last year. That’s the worst mark of his career and a disappointing drop after he connected on 41% and 37% of those looks in the two prior seasons, respectively.

His inability to space the floor allowed opposing defenses’ to be more willing to double the Knicks’ leading scorers.

Brunson and Randle ranked within the top 10 of the most double-teamed players in the league, with both seeing extra defenders on at least 30% of their possessions each, according to NBACourtOptix of NBA.com.

While Barrett was far from the only culprit that led to defenses collapsing on New York’s stars, his drop-off from previous seasons didn’t help either.

Even if his total shooting numbers from behind the arc don’t increase exponentially in 2023-24, he’ll still provide a boost to the Knicks’ offense if he can punish defenses who are eager to help off him by hitting around 38% of his catch-and-shoot looks.