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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RJ Barrett, New York Knicks. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images)
RJ Barrett, New York Knicks. (Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images) /

1: Prioritize securing defensive rebounds

Barrett has been relatively consistent at crashing the glass thus far as a pro, averaging at least five rebounds per game in each season of his career.

His numbers slipped a bit in 2022-23, recording just 5.0 boards each night. This can be partially attributed to the Josh Hart deal, as Barrett’s numbers started to dip exactly after the Knicks traded for the veteran wing.

The former number three overall pick often uses his upper body to drive through the chest of defenders and shrug off contact, but his strength hasn’t resulted in him being an elite rebounder just yet. Barrett had a contested defensive rebound percentage of just 12% last year, the second-worst mark among New York’s rotation players.

In other words, he’s tracking down and securing most of the easier boards but hasn’t always been willing to bang around in the paint and fight for the tougher ones.

The main reason why an uptick in defensive rebounding effort would help him out is that it presents an opportunity to run in transition.

Barrett is an adept transition player on offense despite not playing in a ton of “run-and-gun” lineups. He averaged 4.2 fastbreak points per game last year, the highest amount on the team.

His change-of-pace drives and crafty lefty finishes have routinely scorched opponents trying to get back and set up their halfcourt defense.

The only issue is that despite leading New York in transition scoring, Barrett only had the fourth-highest transition frequency among rotation players. One of the most obvious ways he can boost the volume of his fastbreak opportunities is by crashing the defensive glass hard, going coast-to-coast, and finishing at the rim.

It’s something that Hart has done regularly in his time as a Knick, which has allowed him to maintain an acceptable point total despite not being much of a scoring threat in halfcourt situations.

If Barrett can connect on standstill threes efficiently, improve his free throw percentage even further, and crash the glass to run in transition, he’ll likely get some All-Star votes in 2023-24.