RJ Barrett made many fans among the Knicks faithful this past season with his hard work, intensity and character, but sadly he is still unloved in the analytical community. And it’s easy to see why: RJ was inefficient shooting from every spot on the court.
But RJ defenders had a rebuttal: If you could only see the dookie court spacing provided by RJ’s teammates, you would understand why he struggled. Barrett routinely shared the court with Elfrid Payton (20.3 3P%), Julius Randle (27.7 3P%), and Taj Gibson (28.6 3P%). none of whom were respected by opposing defenses out past the three-point line. The result was many plays like this:
A sample of the spacing RJ Barrett had to deal with this year pic.twitter.com/ABlHZX2NYb— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) May 27, 2020
And RJ actually made a great play here, threading a pass between five — count ‘em, FIVE — defenders to Mitchell Robinson for the dunk.
Finally, though, we have some nerd numbers to back up the eye test, thanks to the good people at BBall Index. They crunched the numbers and found that, not only was the spacing surrounding RJ horrific, it was actually the worst spacing in the NBA.
Arguing with a friend or coworker about RJ Barrett?— BBall Index (@The_BBall_Index) August 14, 2020
Do they know the spacing in the lineups he was in was dead last in the NBA this year?
Find that fuel for analysis, along with our other contextual stats, all in his Player Profile.
For more info, go to https://t.co/3Xagb3XCzp pic.twitter.com/u3S8kRBavr
The poop emoji was a nice touch.
Does this excuse RJ’s poor finishing at the rim, where he was one of the worst in the league at converting buckets? Absolutely not. He needs to get significantly better with his touch at the rim, as well as with the jump shot. But the lineups the Knicks put around him did him absolutely no favors.
Here’s hoping that next year’s Knicks squad has a shooter or two around an much-improved RJ Barrett. Maybe they could even play him at forward on occasion! That would be a refreshing change of pace.