The former Duke Blue Devil expected to become a big-time player as a rookie, but an uneven first year found him left off the NBA’s All-Rookie teams.
During his rookie year, the Knicks went 21-45, finishing 12th in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs for the seventh straight season.
Barrett looked like a bust, but as a sophomore, he improved.
Reminder that RJ Barrett is going to be a star in this league ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/CxRn6gU4PP
— Knicks Media 🗽 (@NYKnicks_Media) August 24, 2021
Barrett Improved On Underwhelming Rookie Campaign
Being left off the All-Rookie team stood as a motivating factor for Barrett entering his sophomore campaign.
During his rookie year, he proved to be an inefficient shooter.
He made just 40 percent of his field goal attempts, including 32 percent from three.
He made just 61 percent from the free-throw line.
Barrett averaged 14.3 points per game, which isn’t bad, but the efficiency remained problematic.
However, in his second season, Barrett improved his play across the board.
He scored 17.6 points per game, and shot 44 percent from the field.
Barrett became a 40-percent shooter from three-point land, too, and made nearly 75 percent of his free throws.
He relied less on his subpar pull-up jumper in his second season.
Instead, he allowed New York’s playmakers to find him for catch-and-shoot opportunities.
Barrett focused on fine-tuning his shooting stroke, and this offseason he has continued that work with noted NBA trainer Drew Hanlen.
— fuegofredo ➐ (@fuegofredo23) August 24, 2021
With improved shot selection as a sophomore, Barrett’s averages jumped.
He netted over 42 percent of corner threes, which represented 42.7 percent of his total three-point attempts.
Barrett Has Room To Grow
RJ Barrett averaged 18/6/3 on 44/40/74 splits while being good a good defender and being the #2 option on the 4th seed in the East
He also did this at 20 years old and somehow still doesn’t get the respect he deserves by the media and NBA community pic.twitter.com/Bblq3oVaeN
— Fredo🗽 (@goknickstape) August 23, 2021
As a sophomore, Barrett played at the age of 20 years old.
His per-game averages of 17 points, six rebounds, and three assists per game slotted him in exclusive company.
Only 10 players in NBA history have averaged at least 16 points, six rebounds, and three assists before turning 21.
At one point last season, Barrett’s numbers were on pace to make him just the sixth NBA player ever to average at least 18 points, six rebounds, and three assists per 36 minutes before his age-21 season.
And there were notable improvements beyond his raw shooting numbers, too.
Barrett improved handling the ball, facilitating the offense, and defending on the perimeter as well.
The next step in Barrett’s rise will be improving his play without the ball in his hands.
The Knicks already sport an All-Star in Julius Randle.
Barrett must rely on his athleticism in transition, as well as opting for high-percentage shots.
The fact that he improved his shot selection from year-one to year-two bodes will for the now 21-year-old.
And without the pressure of creating his own offense, Barrett can focus on finishing.
But to truly become a star, Barrett might need to become a two-way talent.
He has the physical tools to be an elite defender, standing 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, and he must leverage those with his quickness to take that next step.