After a season in which he massively improved as an all-around player, New York Knicks’ RJ Barrett is entering the fourth year of his career looking to keep up this improvement.
While from a statistical standpoint, Barrett did not improve by a ton, watching him play tells a completely different story. Not only did he become a better shot creator, but his ability as a playmaker, leader, and overall scorer got much better.
As for Barrett’s defense, he started the 2021-22 season playing defense at a pretty ridiculous level. That part of his game took a bit of a hit once he was asked to take on a much bigger role offensively. Don’t get me wrong, he is still pretty good on that side of the ball, however, I would rather see Barrett focus on offense, as we already know what he is capable of on defense.
Regardless, with Barrett reportedly putting even more work in on his shot creation and finishing this offseason, there is a very good chance we see these improvements continue for the 22-year-old.
Here is what we could expect out of Knicks’ RJ Barrett in the 2022-23 season
More improvements on the offensive side of the ball
Last season, RJ Barrett averaged 20.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, and 3.0 APG while shooting 40.8% from the field and 34.2% from three. While this may not be the craziest improvement statistically, the jump he made from a viewing standpoint and as an all-around scorer was very exciting to see.
For example, last season, Barrett had 11 30+ point games, compared to 2020, where he only had one. Alongside this, Barrett shot 45% from the field or higher in nine out of the eleven 30+ point games he had, showing that he can be efficient as a high-level scorer.
That still leaves the question, why was Barrett so inefficient and at times, inconsistent last season? Well, the answer is simple, he is still very raw on that side of the ball. It also doesn’t help that for almost the entirety of his second season, Barrett was used as a spot-up shooter which hurt his chance to flesh out his game.
So while his efficiency may have dropped, I would rather see Barrett score with not only more confidence, but with more versatility. The efficiency will come with time, likely next season.
Not to mention when you compare Barrett’s third-year statistics to some of the other stars in the league such as Paul George, DeMar DeRozan, and Jimmy Butler, you can understand why it is important to be patient. I’m not necessarily comparing Barrett to these stars, however, you cannot expect perfection out of a 22-year-old.
With that being said, I believe this season we can expect to see improved all-around offensive numbers from Barrett. Maybe around 23-25 PPG with improved efficiency while also seeing a jump in his playmaking ability, which is already very solid.
Honestly, even if Barrett maintains the same stats from last season, but just improves his efficiency, it would be enough to consider it an improved season.
Potential improvements on defense
At the beginning of last season, it seemed as if Barrett was ready to breakout defensively, as he was playing absolutely elite defense on anyone he guarded. However, as the season went on and Barrett was asked to take on a bigger offensive role, we saw his defense decline a bit. While he was still an above-average defender, it was not the same as the beginning of the season.
With the addition of Jalen Brunson and the potential of a renewed Julius Randle this season, we could see Barrett have the ball in his hands a little less. That would open the door for Barrett to go back to his old ways defensively.
Personally, I would like to see Barrett have the ball in his hands more than at least Randle, regardless of how he plays, as I believe he is best fit as an off-ball slasher. I would not mind seeing Barrett put more of an emphasis on his defense as he did earlier last season.
I’m not saying that Barrett will be an all-defensive player or anything, however, if he can make the jump from above average to great or even elite, it would help the Knicks out tremendously.
So far during his three seasons in the league, we have seen Barrett improve by a good margin each year, meaning that it is right to expect yet another jump for him as he enters his fourth year in the league.
If he can make even some of the improvements that I stated, then there is a good chance Barrett will rightfully earn the max extension he is owed at the end of this upcoming season.