Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
When evaluating the top potential breakout candidates in the NBA, New York Knicks’ R.J. Barrett could be among the top options. Does he rank No. 1?
The New York Knicks placed a lot of faith in the long-term development of R.J. Barrett when the team elected to use the third overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft to bring him into the fold.
Barrett is entering the fourth season of his NBA career, and it will be vital that he takes a legitimate step toward stardom. It's not just important for the Knicks' plans but himself, too, considering he must prove that he was worth giving a four-year, $125 million contract extension.
Barrett produced an overall output of 0.923 points per possession (PPP) during his 2021-22 campaign. When compared to the 35 other players that recorded at least 1,500 possessions, he ranked 32nd overall. The only players qualified that were less efficient included teammate Julius Randle, Reggie Jackson, and Russell Westbrook.
In a recent analysis of the top potential breakout candidates for the 2022-23 season, NBA Analysis Network ranked Barrett atop the list. The volume output was considered a step in the right direction. With a major point guard upgrade by his side with the Jalen Brunson signing, it should only help.
"What Barrett has accomplished in his first three seasons in the NBA has been achieved by very few people. Averaging 20 points, 5.8 rebounds and three assists per game at 21 years old is an impressive feat. Now playing alongside a competent point guard, his numbers should take another step in the right direction."
The Knicks did not end up being the team to acquire Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz despite being heavily linked and favored as the eventual suitor.
It can take time for a player to grow into their higher usage role essentially. They become more of a target for the defense to concentrate game planning efforts, making it more challenging to execute with ideal efficiency consistently.
There does appear to be more that goes into Barrett's decline in scoring production. Among the factors, Barrett executed at an underwhelming rate out of spot-up situations, which accounted for 27.1 percent of his possessions. His output of 0.925 PPP ranked in just the 36th percentile in the league.
Barrett wasn't particularly great when running pick-and-rolls or attempting to make a play out of isolation, either. Both of those areas require improvement for him to emerge as a star talent given their frequency. For reference, Barrett generated just 0.746 PPP (29th percentile) as a pick-and-roll ball handler and 0.833 PPP (41st percentile) in isolation.
Regardless of play type, Barrett is generally inefficient as an off-the-dribble shooter. He isn't an overly willing pull-up 3-point shooter (7.7 percent frequency) and shot just 25.3 percent when he took them. Given the advantages his frame offers, making the defense have to respect the pull-up from deep would open things up a lot, especially when considering the Knicks' lack of ideal floor spacing.
Barrett struggled to convert consistently on pull-up jumpers inside the 3-point line by shooting just 30.6 percent on those looks. He has yet to become effective enough inside of 10 feet to overcompensate for it as he shot just 47.5 percent on those attempts.
No matter how it's looked at, Barrett must become a more efficient scorer. He should have plenty of opportunities to grow into such a role, and given the investment that the Knicks made in him with both the No. 3 overall pick and a substantial contract extension, it will be a needed outcome.
You can follow Grant Afseth on Twitter at @GrantAfseth.
Want the latest in breaking news and insider information on the Knicks? Click Here.
Follow AllKnicks.com on Twitter.