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Player Preview: RJ Barrett must improve efficiency

Time flies: The 23 year old will be entering his fifth season in New York

New York Knicks v Miami Heat - Game Six Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

RJ Barrett is a player I have written about a bunch of times since starting to write for P&T. He’s a player I deeply want to see succeed and often will try to point out his positives and the good he does.

However, entering his fifth season with the New York Knicks, the 23-year-old is still young but there are areas we really need to see him improve in.

Efficiency:

If RJ is going to continue to be an integral part of the Knicks’ offense, he needs to start shooting better percentages. In 2022-23, he had a 43.4 field goal percentage, which was actually up from 40.8 percent in 2021-22. On two-pointers, Barrett shot 49.5 percent but on three-pointers, he shot a lowly 31 percent. He actually attempted 14 fewer three-pointers in 2022-23 than in 2021-22 and shot 3.2 percent worse.

A player with his volume just has to find a way to put the ball in the basket better. Since his rookie year, RJ has averaged at least 13 field goals per game and in the last two seasons, he’s attempted 16 and 17 per game. It also hasn’t helped that the Knicks forward is a below-average foul shooter. Last season, he shot 74 percent from the line on 5.4 attempts per game. The total to that comes out to 290/392. Barrett did a good job physically getting himself to the line, finishing behind Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson for most FTA per game on the team. The league average in the 2022-23 season for free throw percentage was 78.2 percent, up from 77.5 percent in 2021-22. RJ has made strides at the foul line since his rookie year when he shot 61.4 percent but hitting the league average should be expected at minimum. If he is going to continue to be aggressive, he may as well take advantage of the easy opportunities at the line.

Barrett did improve his inside scoring, raising his percentages in shots from less than five feet and attempts from 5-9 feet. He was great at converting cutting layups and it’s something he should continue to do this season. In 2022-23, RJ averaged a career-high 10.1 points in the paint and has shown flashes of being lethal with a full head of steam driving to the basket.

*After the Knicks’ 2023 playoff run ended, I wrote a more in-depth article detailing the good and bad from Barrett’s season.*

Playmaking:

Another area I wanted to touch briefly was Barrett’s playmaking potential this season. Looking at his career arc, he has averaged 2.6, 3.0, 3.0, and 2.8 assists per game in his four seasons. Do those numbers stand out? No, they don’t but if you look a little closer you’ll see that Barrett averaged 5.1 potential assists in 2022-23 and 5.8 in 2021-22. His numbers could’ve looked a lot better had the Knicks not finished 20th in field goal percentage. If Barrett can turn some of his low-percentage shots into assists, it will open up the floor for the rest of the team. In general, it’d be nice to see the Knicks get more assists as they’ve been bottom of the NBA in that category for years now.

FIBA:

Barrett had his ups and downs in the 2023 FIBA World Cup where he helped Team Canada win a bronze medal. He averaged 20.8 points per game on 52.2 percent shooting and was Canada’s second-leading scorer behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He came up clutch against the Americans in the bronze medal game, scoring 23 points on 8/16 shooting and grabbing seven rebounds. For a more in-depth report on RJ Barrett’s 2023 FIBA World Cup, click——> HERE.

Outlook:

What I hope to see from RJ Barrett this season is the evolution of a more complete player. Taking smarter shots and finding better opportunities will go a long way for him. He’s not a good outside shooter, but he’s been really good at getting himself to the basket, embrace that rather than forcing. He will likely average around 20 points for the third straight season, but it would be discouraging to see him doing it while continuing to shoot inefficently.

Still only 23 years old, there’s a lot to be intrigued by with Barrett. I’m looking forward to the hopeful strides he takes this season.

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