‘Growth and maturity’ of RJ Barrett on full display for Knicks

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at New York Knicks
RJ Barrett (right) continues to mature into an important piece of the Knicks’ offense.
Mary Altaffer-Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

For all those New York Knicks detractors looking for aspects of the franchise to rag on: It’s time to move on from going after RJ Barrett. 

The 20-year-old swingman is finding his footing in the league as a go-to threat for the Knicks alongside Julius Randle, continuing to build his game in just his second year as a pro. 

Over his last three games prior to Sunday night’s matchup with the Toronto Raptors, the Duke product is averaging 23.7 points while shooting 60% from the field and a whopping 75% from three-point range — showing emphatically that his offensive game is improving by leaps and bounds.

Barrett is averaging 17.3 points per game this season, up three points from his rookie season, while his shooting percentage is up 5% and three-point percentage is up 6.2%. Not to mention a free-throw percentage that is up from 61.4% last year to 73.6% this year.

He showed off all his killer instinct on Friday night in an overtime victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, sinking three free throws with 37 seconds left in regulation before a game-tying, driving layup on Ja Morant with 8.8 seconds to go. 

He then proceeded to sink a huge three-pointer with 1:15 to go in overtime.

“I’ve been watching it all year and I think his confidence is coming from all the extra time that he’s putting in,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I think he’s showing his growth and maturity… The shooting piece has been huge. And then his finishing is vastly improved, as well. But his all-around play has been terrific,” Thibodeau said. “His work ethic is top of the line. His attitude and approach are top of the line. He’s a team-first guy. He’s 20 years old and he’s only going to get better.”