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Stefan Bondy: It's time for Knicks to rethink RJ Barrett's green light

Stefan Bondy, New York Daily News on

Published in Basketball

NEW YORK — Pull up a chair, get cozy. It’s time to have a serious conversation about RJ Barrett.

This is an uncomfortable topic for a number of reasons, namely that $107 million extension that hasn’t even started yet. There’s so much hope attached to Barrett’s future, the full-on hype of representing the franchise’s highest pick since Patrick Ewing and its first draftee to sign a second contract in 23 years.

Only two months ago, Leon Rose, who is batting well below the Mendoza Line with his moves, justified the extension by making comparisons even Garden propagandists should’ve thought audacious.

“His numbers are in the company of elite,” Rose told MSG Network while cobbling together three stat totals by players 22 years old or younger. “His numbers are in the company of Kobe Bryant, Luka Doncic, LeBron James and Kevin Durant.”

Which brings us to the present. And why we’re sitting by the fire for this heart-to-heart.

Barrett, as witnessed through much of his young career, has an issue with efficiency. He misses too much. From too many parts of the court.

 

There were moments the last two seasons when it appeared Barrett would overcome this deficiency when he converted enough to earn chants at MSG and that big extension. But as Barrett’s role grows in the offense — and as he supplants Julius Randle as the team leader in shot attempts — the problem has only intensified.

In essence, this is a basic math equation. A player shooting 39% overall and 26% from beyond the arc — as Barrett mustered through 19 games — shouldn’t shoot this many times. He owns the team’s worst effective field goal percentage and the team’s most field goal attempts. It’s not a winning formula.

Take away the pandemic season and Barrett is shooting 40.4% for his career, which is about 65 percentage points below the NBA average.

“Get in the gym, put in the extra work,” Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s all you can do.”

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