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RJ Barrett Update: Ready For An All-Star Season?

The former Duke star may be ready to move to an All-Star level.

NBA: New York Knicks at Dallas Mavericks
Apr 16, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) shoots over Dallas Mavericks guard JJ Redick (17) during the fourth quarter at American Airlines Center.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

RJ Barrett’s career arc in the NBA has been pretty interesting. He started as a perceived consolation prize in the 2019 draft, being picked third behind Zion Williamson, who the Knicks media crowd, not to mention fans, desperately wanted, and Ja Morant, who was correctly seen as an exciting pick too.

Then he was seen as a solid player but one who was offensively clumsy.

People overlooked his desire to work and improve though and last year, and this year in summer league, he showed immense improvement as a shooter and scorer.

But in the excitement about this offensive leap, people sort of overlooked his defensive work. As you’ll see in the links below, he’s got a chance to become a stopper and he has no problem with taking that on.

And he has his coach’s confidence. Check out what Tom Thibodeau says about his young star:

“I think you guys have watched his growth. His ability to go off the dribble and get into the lane, his size, and also the way he improved his 3-point shooting last year, he made a major step. He’s made a huge commitment this summer. We think he’ll continue to get better; people tend to forget, he’s 21 years old. He averaged 18 points per game on a playoff team. He’s hungry, he’s driven. He’s smart, he’s competitive. Those are all the characteristics we’re looking for…. That’s why he’ll continue to get better.”

We mean this in the best possible way but Barrett has always been arrogant, to the point where, when they were at Duke, Zion Williamson said it was “RJ’s team,” despite considerable evidence to the contrary.

Williamson was smart enough to understand that Barrett has an alpha personality and had to be that at Duke, while he was secure enough with himself that he didn’t.

So it was RJ’s team and it worked out very well for both of them, who remain close friends.

Arrogance is a very useful thing for an NBA player, by which we mean a positive arrogance and Barrett is showing that he can justify it. This is going to be a fun year for him and for fans.

Barrett has definitely improved his shot but there’s one thing we’d like to see: JJ Redick is no longer playing in the NBA but he lives about 20 minutes from Madison Square Garden, in Brooklyn. We’d love to see Redick become a shooting coach and given Barrett’s passion for greatness, he’d be an ideal first student.