Should Knicks be concerned about RJ Barrett’s Summer League play?

first_imgLAS VEGAS — With Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, Michael Porter Jr. and a host of others out for NBA Summer League competition, the spotlight is focused squarely on Knicks rookie RJ Barrett, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.But instead of showcasing the ability that pushed him to the top of the 2018 class before his lone season at Duke, a rush of concerns has flooded in after a pair of Summer League clunkers. Although a tendency for overreaction is common — Trae Young’s 2018 Summer League immediately comes to mind — it’s much more than what is seen on the stat sheet that has caused skepticism about his transition to the professional ranks. It’s not just affecting him, but his team as well. The Knicks came into Summer League as the favorites to win. You can’t help but think that Barrett’s play is a key reason why they have sputtered to an 0-2 start.They still have two more games before the tournament stage begins, and they may very well put it all together. There will certainly be extra attention being paid to the Knicks game on Tuesday against the Raptors, as all eyes will be on Barrett to see if he can correct a few of these issues and close out Summer League on a high note.But as of right now, his play has given the Knicks something to worry about. SUMMER LEAGUE 2019:Inside the night when Mother Nature upstaged ZionBarrett’s 10-point dud on 4-of-18 shooting in his debut opposite the Pelicans and former teammate Zion Williamson on Friday was justifiable considering the magnitude of the game. That performance can be chalked up to nervous energy.What he did in his second game against the Suns on Sunday at the Thomas & Mack Center, though, was far less forgivable. In a 105-100 overtime loss to the Suns, Barrett amassed this worrisome stat line:8 points (3-of-15 from the field, 1-of-5 from beyond the arc and 1-of-4 from the free-throw line)10 rebounds2 steals1 assist1 block4 fouls8 turnovers   It looks troubling on paper, but it played out much worse in person. It got so bad that during a possession late in the fourth quarter, a group of fans yelled “No!” when Barrett touched the ball.They had good reason. What transpired during Barrett’s 31 minutes on the floor was a collection of bad decisions that were magnified by his lack of explosiveness and inability to knock down a jumper from any spot on the floor.A particularly rough sequence in the third quarter started with him turning the ball over on a 3-on-2 fast break when he attempted to lead Kenny Wooten with a bounce pass that wasn’t even close to its intended target. On the next possession, he forced a layup and was rejected at the rim. He managed to get the ball back in his hands but was subsequently called for a travel. Two possessions later, he came up short on a wide-open 3-pointer and caught right iron on a second shot from beyond the arc a minute after that.The questions surrounding his perimeter game and decision-making surfaced once again against the Suns. His shot selection was awful, and he made everything more difficult than it had to be. If he wasn’t late finding his man on a pick-and-roll, he was struggling to dribble past his defender. And if he wasn’t forcing a layup in traffic, he was missing badly on his jump shots from the perimeter. And the cherry on top of this miserable sundae was his 1-for-4 from the charity stripe.So those jeers that he received in the fourth quarter as the Knicks were looking to close out the game? Well earned.The 6-7 swingman has gone 7-for-33 (21.2 percent) from the field in his first two Summer League games. He’s not lacking aggression, which is a good thing. But the issues that plagued him at Duke — namely 3-point shooting (30.8 percent) and free-throw shooting (66.5 percent) — aren’t the only concerns. His lack of feel for the game has raised eyebrows along with his struggles finishing at the rim.It’s far too early to suggest that the Canadian may be a bust for the Knicks, but there is enough material to sound a few alarms when it comes to adjusting to the NBA.last_img

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