Knicks forward RJ Barrett snaps slump, but concerns remain

The 2022 season has not been what the Knicks or RJ Barrett had envisioned when the former third overall selection signed a four-year, $120 million extension in August. While his recent poor stretch may be an outlier, questions about Barrett’s efficiency and ceiling remain. 

In a 129-119 win against the Thunder on Monday night, Barrett posted 25 points on 10 of 16 shooting, including a sizzling 5-for-5 start.

The previous five games, however, the Knicks’ forward averaged 12.6 points on 26.3% from the field while reportedly battling an undisclosed illness. The stretch included a 2-for-25 skid from downtown.

Nine days ago, the 22-year-old was benched in the second half of a 145-135 loss to Oklahoma City. 

Barrett had a career year last season, averaging 20 points, 5.8 rebounds and three assists, but advanced statistics reveal concerns.

Per John Hollinger’s NBA Player Statistics, Barrett’s 2021-22 player efficiency rating (PER) of 13.72 ranked 195th of 375 qualified players. (The higher the number, the more efficient the player.)

For comparison, a league average PER is 15. Barrett’s PER was seventh highest on a Knicks team that went 37-45 last season. 

After Barrett reportedly was offered in a trade package for Donovan Mitchell, the Knicks (9-9) pivoted to extending him once talks fell through. The team believed that pairing him with free-agent signee Jalen Brunson would elevate Barrett to a perennial All-Star caliber player.

While Brunson (20.8 ppg, 6.7 apg) has lived up to his $104 million price tag, the new addition has not paid dividends for Barrett. 

Through 18 games, Barrett’s PER has dropped to 11.42 — 252nd of 334 qualifying players. His per-game slashes from a year ago have dipped to 18.3/ 5.1/ 2.9. 

Barrett’s three-point percentage has fallen each season since his 40% shooting in his second season. He shot 34.2% from behind the arc last season and is shooting an abysmal 27.3% this season.

With an extended break and a home matchup on deck Friday against Damian Lillard-less Portland, Barrett will have a favorable chance to build off Monday night’s promising performance.

If Barrett reverts to his most recent form, however, the Knicks could have a major issue on their hands.


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