The New York Knicks have a new face to the franchise and his name is RJ Barrett.
The Knicks drafted Barrett third overall in 2019, their highest draft pick since they took Patrick Ewing first overall in 1985. After the first four games of Barrett’s rookie season, it looks like the Knicks have a potential homegrown superstar on their hands.
Barrett is averaging 20.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2 steals, and 1.8 threes per game. His name is all over the rookie leader board on basketball-reference.com. He is second in rookie scoring to Kendrick Nunn and second in rookie rebounding to Rui Hachimura. Barrett is third in three-pointers behind PJ Washington and Nunn. Barrett is tied for most steals and third in total assists. Barrett would win the incredibly small sample Rookie of the Year Award if it was given in October (sorry Ja Morant).
The Knicks haven’t had a player win Rookie of the Year since Mark Jackson in 1987-1988. In the last 20 years, the only homegrown stars the Knicks were able to develop were David Lee and Kristaps Porzingis. Barrett represents a massive shift in organizational strategy as the Knicks have put greater effort over the last few seasons in stockpiling young talent and rebuilding through the draft.
No longer are the Knicks trading their draft picks and building their team through free agency. The Knicks haven’t been able to develop a player of Barrett’s caliber mostly since they haven’t actually tried. The Knicks four straight years of making a first-round draft selection from 2015-2019 is their longest streak since 2006-2009.
When Barrett was in high school, he was the first player since LeBron James to sweep all major awards and win the national championship. I don’t know of a more obvious sign of greatness. As his career has progressed, Barrett has continued to keep his name surrounded by the NBA’s best players.
In his NBA debut at the age of 19, Barrett became the 2nd youngest player ever to score 20+ points, after 18-year-old LeBron James. Barrett is the second player in NBA history to score at least 60 points, 15 rebounds, and hit 5 three-pointers in their first three games. The first was Kevin Durant.
In his fourth career game, Barrett became the first Knicks rookie since Walt Frazier in 1968 to score at least 15 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists. Barrett has scored 82 points in his first four games, the most since Ewing scored 91 in 1985. Per Basketball-reference.com, Barrett’s 19 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists game made him the first teenager since LeBron James to score at least 19/5/5 in a single game.
While an insanely small sample, through four games Barrett is proving to be the face of the franchise. The Knicks have an elite teenage basketball prospect who is NBA ready and having debuts inline with other Knicks and NBA legends. Barrett is the homegrown superstar that can be the best player of the next contending Knicks team. While the Knicks have been garbage the last 20 years, Barrett can be the guy who helps bring this team back to relevancy. RJ Barrett is the result of the Knicks switching gears and attempting to build their next contending team through the draft, and it already looks like it is going quicker than expected.
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