RJ Barrett’s struggles continue to handicap Knicks

Knicks' RJ Barrett drives past Pistons' Killian Hayes.
Knicks’ RJ Barrett drives past Pistons’ Killian Hayes.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Approaching the quarter-mark of the NBA season, RJ Barrett continues to struggle — and it’s dealing a significant blow to the Knicks’ high hopes. 

Most troublingly for Barrett, who was ostensibly going to be the centerpiece of New York’s offense, is his porous shooting this year. 

Through 19 games, the 22-year-old has made just 39.4% of 16.4 shots per game. That is the third-worst field goal percentage on the team among eligible players. 

His numbers from beyond the arc are even worse, as he’s drained just 26.4% of three pointers, while attempting 5.6 such shots each game — the lowest of his four-year career. 

Even his free throw percentage is lacking, with 76.5% of free throws going in the hoop. 

Barrett’s struggles have been a large part of the Knicks’ disappointing 9–10 season start. 

Despite his porous shooting numbers, the Duke product, who was the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, shook off the early season jitters, saying his shots will start to fall soon.

“They’ve got to [go in] at some point,” he said after the team’s Friday loss to the Trailblazers, when he went 6-22 from the field. He also missed six of his seven three pointers that game.

Head coach Tom Thibodeau also backed up his star wing, saying he didn’t want Barrett to become gun-shy when taking shots. 

“[He’s] got to keep working at it, trust the process,” the coach said. “Got to get in the gym, put in the extra work, that’s all you can do.” 

On top of his uninspired shooting this year, Barrett has also struggled on the defensive end of the floor. 

While he can’t be solely to blame for their defensive woes, he certainly hasn’t helped — and the Knicks have given up the sixth-most points of any team in the NBA this year at 116.4 per game. 

Measured by the Defensive Win Shares statistic, which is measured by the number of points allowed per 100 defensive possessions while that player is on the court, Barrett ranks 361st in the NBA this year.  

His Defensive Rating, which estimates points that a player was solely or partly responsible for, ranks Barrett even worse — 418th in the NBA. 

After signing a four-year contract worth up to $120 million in the offseason, there is no doubt that Barrett has had a negative effect on the Knicks this year.

The question for Barrett and the Knicks’ coaching staff is how long his slump will continue — and how long a leash they want to give him.

For more coverage of RJ Barrett and the Knicks, head to amNY.com.

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