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Why Knicks give RJ Barrett max extension shouldn’t be suspension

CHARLOTTE — It’s been a promising season for RJ Barrett — the one thing Knicks fans can hold onto this season of darkness.

But before it’s accepted as a fait accompli that Barrett’s tenacious attack-the-rim game has earned him a maximum rookie contract extension worth up to $181 million over five years, take a closer look at his declining efficiency numbers appropriate.

In the last 12 games, Barrett, playing the first 82-game season of his career, shot just 39 percent overall and 30 percent from 3 despite averaging 24 points.

His shot percentage has dropped to 41 percent, which ranks 105th in the league for players with the required minimum number of shots. (Julius Randle is 104th — which goes into why the Knicks are 12 games under .500 after winning a losing season.)

Knicks RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett (R.) drives to a layup during the Knicks’ loss to the Hawks March 22, 2022.
Jason scenes

Even more alarming about Barrett’s efficiency are his numbers lately when games are at stake. The 21-year-old appeared to have gassed against the Hawks on Monday and put together a terrible second half as he shot 3 of 13 with three turnovers.

In the second half of the last three games, Barrett has shot 9 of 38 from the field (23.6 percent) with six turnovers combined. Barrett gets another try Tuesday in Charlotte near his old college hangout, Duke.

Last season, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau repeatedly spoke about how the best part of Randle’s gaudy numbers was that he won. As flattering as the Knicks coach may have considered Barrett’s progress as an elite bull-to-the-basket scorer, the winning element wasn’t there with the Knicks at 30-42.

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RJ Barrett (R) shoots during the Knicks’ loss to the Hawks on March 22, 2022.
Jason scenes

“RJ is a volume shooter, which is a problem,” said an NBA coach. “Players who are volume shooters score. And he’s very talented, but last year he shot the ball better. The problem is that defense will never protect him as a shooter until he shows a lot more consistency over time. This lack of consistency negates the all-important distance.”

Barrett is close to ending this season with a 20-point scoring average. In 61 games, Barrett has averaged 19.7 points, but his 3-point percentage (34.9 of 40.1) and effective field goal percentage (47 percent of 49.9) are both lower than they were before one Season. The latter analysis measures 2-point and 3-point efficiency in one number. In Barrett’s defense, he played without a capable point guard.

If the Knicks don’t offer him a maximum extension by the October deadline, Barrett’s agent Bill Duffy could try 2023-limited free agency. The Knicks are still in control and can match an even more expensive max bid if it comes from another team. But by the summer of 2023, the Knicks will also be able to gauge Barrett’s starting value better than they did in October.

Barrett, whose durability is undisputed, has also been an excellent rebound guard this season — he grabbed 13 against Atlanta — with a 5.9 average, while he’s a decent defender who often takes on opponents’ toughest wing. Playmaking (2.9 assists per game) is still a work in progress.

“Maximum overtime is a difficult decision because he’s physically gifted and has the ability to be extremely good on defense,” said the coach. “The two things that matter most now are who he’s playing with and his attitude towards making the right game. But if your volume shooter isn’t efficient, it doesn’t bode well for the team as a whole.”

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RJ Barrett (L) attempts to drive past Trae Young during the Knicks’ loss to the Hawks March 22, 2022.
Jason scenes

Against Atlanta, Barrett put up 30 points by putting in a layup eight points down in the dying seconds – the Hawks were content not to guard him. But his tenth 30-point night featured a line of 9 of 25 shots, 1 of 7 of 3, 11 of 17 from the free throw line and five turnovers.

The Hawks pulled away in the final minutes as Trae Young, who amassed 45 points, and Bogdan Bogdanovic went red hot and Barrett faded, showing he’s still an unpolished gem.

“I feel like they just knew what they were doing,” Barrett said of the Hawks. “They went to certain things and took pictures. They went to their two boys who were hot and they finished the game.

As an optimist, Barrett still took something from the loss to Young, which all but eliminated the Knicks from the postseason.

“Definitely shouldn’t have been 45, but it was 3-1, the series that year,” Barrett said. “So overall we did a good job. But today was definitely tough.”

https://nypost.com/2022/03/23/why-knicks-giving-rj-barrett-a-max-extension-shouldnt-be-a-lock/ Why Knicks give RJ Barrett max extension shouldn’t be suspension

JOE HERNANDEZ

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