I still remember the time in which RJ Barrett claimed he only wanted to be drafted by either the New York Knicks or the Los Angeles Lakers and I used to watch him quite a bit through out his days at Duke alongside former teammates Cam Reddish and Zion Williamson; who are both also in the NBA but both have somewhat struggled to leave their mark so far just like RJ Barrett has failed to do. Zion Williamson not so much since he has proven he can be one of the top 10 maybe even one of the top 5 best players in the NBA if he can get health on his side, Cam Reddish has become somewhat of a journeyman and hopefully a change of scenery in Portland could lead to his much awaited ascension at the NBA level. I had superstar aspirations for RJ Barrett, I found it impressive how he was able to practically be the first option on former Duke Blue Devils’s head coach Mike Krzyzewski offense which included both Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish two other supreme talents but RJ Barrett is starting to make me wane on believing he will ever be the next Knick great. I used to be a die-hard Knicks fan actually when Allan Houston was suiting up for the Knicks in the early 2000’s but ever since Isiah Thomas shelled out a massive 6-year deal for Jamal Crawford that ended up being the last straw for me as a fan, never mind that atrocious deal for Eddy Curry as well.
The Knicks look good this season, as expected Jalen Brunson is living up to the $100 million the Knicks shelled out for him this past off-season and Julius Randle finally adjusting with the times has lead to a resurgence in his up-and-down career so far. He’s back to scoring 20+ at will due to improving his 3-point shooting and not just choosing to play bully-ball like a prime LeBron James used to in his Miami Heat days; and can’t leave out second-year guard Quentin Grimes who has received a promotion into the Knicks’s starting lineup which could explain for much of the Knicks’s success offensively in the first half of this season. Grimes has given the Knicks’s starting lineup much needed versatility and floor-spacing which Randle and Barrett just aren’t able to provide on a consistent basis. But back to RJ Barrett because I believe if he had actually been living up to his potential the Knicks would be a major threat in the Eastern Conference, and yes I know he scored 46 points in The Garden last season against the Miami Heat which was quite impressive but RJ’s inconsistency is the reason why he hasn’t yet made an all-star team and I’m sorry but 19 points per game 5 rebounds per game and 3 assists per game just isn’t going to cut it, specially if you aren’t at least an All-NBA defender.
In the Eastern Conference you have the Milwaukee Bucks,Boston Celtics,Philadelphia 76ers,and heck just throw the Miami Heat in there because with Jimmy Butler you just never know and I like what they have brewing over there with Bam Adebayo taking on an even bigger role this season and they always play the right way regardless of whatever disparity in talent they might have. The Knicks? I’m expecting a second-round exit at best because there is just no way they are getting past 3 superstars in Giannis Antetokoumpo,Jayson Tatum,and Joel Embiid who are out for vengeance this season; and looking to add on to their respective legacies as they seek to become amongst the all-time greats someday before they close the curtains on their respective careers. What Jalen Brunson is doing is nothing short of amazing, he’s actually exceeding expectations this season and playing like arguably one of the top 5 point guards in the NBA. Julius Randle made the all-star team this season for the second time in his career coming off a let-down campaign last season which saw his production go from Tim Duncan like numbers 2020-2021 to John Collins like number 2021-2022, that’s no ill-advised shot at John Collins but he’s also falling short in Atlanta and his name has been rather common in trade rumors over the past few years.
So what’s the jury on RJ Barrett? Will he ever live up to his potential? Well he’s only the ripe age of 22 but he is already 4 years in; should we expect him to be a late bloomer much like Giannis Antetokoumpo who took just about 4 years to finally introduce himself as a NBA superstar? I wouldn’t count on it, RJ has kept my attention since The Last Dance debuted a couple years ago and he chimed in on how he wanted to use former Bulls’s legend Michael Jordan as an inspiration for his respective career and also how he hopes his timeline in New York someday aligns much like Jordan’s in Chicago. Hate to break it to you RJ but it’s not even close right now between you and Michael, mind you I am not even a Michael Jordan fan but Michael made his presence known to the city of Chicago and all of the NBA through his first 4-years in the NBA, you RJ? Not so much, I’m sure Knicks fans would love for you to go on a second half-surge and have the Knicks striking fear onto the rest of the Eastern Conference. I’m with RJ, just like he claimed prior to the season the Knicks were going to make some noise in the Eastern Conference I believe they can yes indeed, but it’s going to take RJ Barrett to take a clear wide look into the mirror.