When the New York Knicks landed the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, many people viewed it as yet another loss for the franchise. That year was supposed to be the one that the Knicks returned to relevancy, landing superstars such as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency and pairing them with Zion Williamson from the draft.
None of that went according to plan. In free agency, the Knicks’ big free agent signing was Julius Randle. In the draft, they selected Williamson’s Duke teammate, RJ Barrett, with the No. 3 overall pick. Williamson went No. 1 to the New Orleans Pelicans while the Memphis Grizzlies picked point guard Ja Morant out of Murray State.
At the time there was a lot of disappointment with how things turned out. But, a legitimate argument can now be made that the Knicks were the big winners of the 2019 NBA Draft coming away with Barrett.
While it took some time, Barrett is now ascending toward that level of stardom. He has been one of the best players in the NBA in the early going of the 2023-24 regular season, taking that step the Knicks and their fans have been waiting for.
The Duke product has made history, hitting scoring and shooting plateaus never before reached. Not only is he producing at a high level, but his production has helped the Knicks win games and overcome slow starts for Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle.
Just how good has Barrett been? On top of the aforementioned history made, he is the youngest player to average 22+ points per game while making 50+ percent of his 3-point attempts in the first seven games of an NBA season in league history.
He is among the most efficient and productive players in the league thus far this season. There are only 10 players in the NBA averaging 22+ points per game that also have a true shooting percentage of at least 62 percent on the season; Barrett is one of them.
This is a whose-who list of stars, as well. LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Paul George, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, Tyrese Haliburton and Lauri Markkentn round out the list. Four of those players have won MVPs and a few others have been in the mix. All nine on the list have at least one All-Star nomination on their resume as well.
That is an impressive group to be included in as Barrett has taken his game to another level. However, Barrett’s impact goes beyond just the offensive side of the ball as well.
He is currently 7th in the entire NBA with a Net Rating of 18.8, which speaks volumes about the improvements he has made defensively as well. Players matched up against Barrett thus far this season are shooting only 40 percent from the field.
If this improvement from Barrett isn’t a fluke, the Knicks are a much more dangerous team than they were last season. Keeping up this level of production, along with the expected positive regression to the mean for Brunson and Randle, will have New York competing for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference once again.
While many people have been wondering when the Knicks will find that star player, they may already have him on their roster. Barrett is developing into a two-way star before our eyes as the patience exhibited by the franchise is paying off.
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