Knicks forward RJ Barrett will be eligible to sign an extension on July 1, but questions loom about whether they should give the 22-year-old a max contract.
After being drafted 3rd overall in the 2019 NBA Draft, Barrett has become a fan favorite at Madison Square Garden, and his game has steadily improved in each of his 3 seasons. Last year, the Canadian-born baller averaged 20 points, 3 assists and 5.8 rebounds over 34.5 minutes per game — and solidified his spot as the focal point of the team’s offense.
The most Barrett is eligible to sign for would be around $185 million over five years, with that deal kicking in after the upcoming season. If the two sides fail to reach an agreement in the coming weeks, he would enter restricted free agency in the 2023 offseason (allowing the Knicks to match any offer he gets t from a different franchise).
So, there’s little risk of losing him entirely, but they may want to lock up their star now to keep him happy, and avoid worrying about the dollar figure later.
But on top of the increased dollar amount, there’s another reason Barrett and his agents would want a max deal: as players coming off their rookie deal are only eligible to sign for 5 years if they are awarded a max contract, whereas they can only sign for 4 years if it’s anything less.
That would make any player seek the salary ceiling, to account for potential injuries in the coming years.
For more coverage of RJ Barrett and the Knicks, head to amNY.com.
Still, The Athletic asked 16 NBA front office officials about Barrett’s possible next contract, and none said they would give him the max — with answers ranging from $15 million to $30 million per year.
Of course, his upcoming restricted free agency makes it less imperative to give him anything at all, as they can simply wait another 82 games to allow him to prove his worth (though that would come at the risk of upsetting Barrett, who may prefer the stability of a long-term deal now).
Fans at Madison Square Garden would surely sharpen their pitchforks at the mere suggestion of Barrett playing aboard another roster in the near future, as the fan-favorite has become the largest glimmer of hope amid a mediocre few years that has seen just one playoff game win since 2013.
As the Knicks look to improve this offseason (particularly with their pursuit of Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson), the need to keep Barrett happy in Blue and Orange will only become more pressing — so fans should watch Barrett with a close eye once free agency starts on Friday.