The New York Knicks are off to a 5-4 start this season, as they’ve won three straight this past week to bring their record above .500. A few players have got off to great starts this year, but one in particular has stepped up so far to lead the way for New York; RJ Barret. The fifth year guard is off to the best start of his career in a year that has the feeling of one where he must step up. Let’s take a look at what Barret has been able to accomplish so far in the young season, how positive it’s been for the Knicks, and which aspects in particular has Barret been able to step up his game in.

Stats So Far

RJ Barret opened up the season with a strong performance opening night at the Garden, shooting 8-20 with 24 points, along with 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Following that, in the Knicks first win of the season in Atlanta Barret put up 26 points, which stands as tied for his season high so far. He also had 6 assists that night, as well as 3 rebounds.

After two solid games in New Orleans and in Cleveland, Barret sat out a couple of games with a shoulder issue putting a slight damper on his hot start to the year. However, in his first game back from injury last Monday at the Garden RJ matched his season high with 26 points in a 111-97 win against the Clippers, while also recording 6 rebounds and 4 assists. In the Knick’s two most recent victories against San Antonio and Charlotte respectively, Barret has scored 24 points in each game as he continues to play with explosive energy out on the court leading the way for New York.

How Did He Start Last Year?

In the 2022-2023 season, Barret finished with an average of 19.6 points per game along with 2.8 assists in 73 games played. He had gotten off to a weaker start than he has this year, surpassing the 20 point mark three times out of his first seven games whereas this year he has surpassed it in five of his first seven.

Intangibles

RJ has been shooting an impressive 49% from the field so far, 85% on free throws, and 50% from three-point range. While the significant improvement of the fifth-year wing’s shooting range has been a very noticeable improvement, his ability to read the game has been the aspect that has elevated his ability to help the team this year the most so far. Fred Katz of The Athletic tweeted on November 8th “RJ Barret once again reading the game totally different than he did a year or two ago. Used to wait for the collapse, get to the paint, then try to kick to the corner or put up a shot. Now, he anticipates the defense, kicks to the wing and get the hockey assist.”

RJ Barret’s ability to read and anticipate the defense has helped him contribute significantly so far to a successful start to the Knicks season. While he has been putting up noticeably improved shooting numbers and stats overall, the intangibles of his game have elevated the Knicks. Making better decisions when it comes to not taking a heavily contested shot and instead opting for a pass to extend a possession is a development for Barret and is something we would all love to continue to see moving forward.

Barret – And Others Lead the Way So Far

When asked about his teammate Barret’s notable improvement this season, Jalen Brunson had this to say: “I think the biggest difference is that there isn’t any difference. He’s had the same mentality and approach to every game that I’ve been his teammate. He’s chipping away, hitting singles, hitting singles. He’s playing great.” Jalen Brunson has also been a key factor in the Knick’s early success, helping lead the way along with RJ. Brunson averages 22.2 points per game on 41.7% shooting so far along with 3.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

In addition to RJ Barret and Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle has also stepped up in the previous week after a rough start to the season. The forward scored 27 points against the Clippers followed by 23 points along with 16 rebounds for a double-double against the Spurs, and capped off the homestand with 23 on Sunday in the matinee affair at the Garden with Charlotte, a 129-107 New York victory.

A successful week and homestand of Knicks basketball has come to a close as the Knicks have won three straight and now go on the road starting off with a Monday night matchup with Boston at 7:30, a rematch of opening night. It has been a total team effort for the Knicks so far as the chemistry offensively and defensively has picked up where it was left off last season, albeit with a couple of additions and subtractions. RJ Barret and Jalen Brunson have led the way so far, while Quickley, Hart, and DiVincenzo bring energy off the bench – just to name a few key contributors. Can Barret keep up the play we’ve been seeing from him so far? He and the rest of this team face a test now with a tough five game road trip coming up starting this Monday night. Let’s see if RJ and the Knicks can keep rolling early on.

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