RJ Barrett extension goes a long way for Knicks, fans

The Knicks and RJ Barrett’s impending 4-year, $120 million extension is a lot to like.

And, of course, Barrett himself. A few months ago, at the start of the Knicks’ match against Donovan Mitchell, I suggested in an op-ed that even sacrificing Barrett to make Mitchell the Knicks must be done, especially Because that could reduce the draft — pick what Danny Ainge would be looking for.

And… well, put it this way: If I were to suggest that the Yankees should simply drop Aaron Judge, I’m not sure the backlash would be so visceral. Trade Barrett? If Knicks fans load Barrett on a plane to Salt Lake City, they’re ready to lie down on the runway. Knicks fans actually love Barrett a lot, and Knicks fans have rarely liked anything over the past few decades.

So that’s it. This is important.

The same is true: Barrett clearly wants to be here. Now, look, $30 million a year isn’t the minimum wage, but the Knicks could have sweetened the deal with an extra year and an extra $73 million, but didn’t. Barrett is still ready to sign for another four years. When your best players are showing such an affinity for their situation, it’s an amazing sign.

Here’s the thing: The Knicks clearly want Barrett. They want him to be part of the core — along with Julius Randle and Jaylen Brunson — and maybe Mitchell. The Knicks still believe they can complete the Mitchell deal even without Barrett. And by signing him, they could even remove that option, at least for now. By locking in good players, teams get better. So far, so good for the Knicks.

There’s a lot to get excited about. Barrett was the No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft, and if he doesn’t show Zion Williamson’s off-court charisma or Ja Morant’s on-court talent, he already has a reputation as one of the NBA’s bluest – Collar work.

4/6/22 - No. 9 RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks drives to the layup
RJ Barrett’s contract extension with the Knicks is good for both parties.
Jason Sennes of The New York Post

“Some people work hard because they know someone is watching them,” Tom Thibodeau said last winter. “RJ works hard because that’s what he is, because he loves basketball, because he wants to keep getting better. You can see what the results are.”

Barrett has improved significantly in both Years 2 and 3. It’s hard to know exactly what his ceiling is as a player, but you can be sure he’s going to get stuck and try to recalibrate it. There’s concern that he’s still a middle man — he likes to hang out in there, but he’s only 6-foot-6; he’s comfortable shooting 3-pointers but can also be a streak shooter (in fact, from his second year to In three years, his shooting percentage from beyond the arc dropped from 40.1 percent to 34.2 percent, an area where his game has regressed).

But it’s not hard to believe he’s been firing off hundreds of shots a day over the summer. That’s what he is. That’s what makes him a smart player to try and build something around him. No doubt he cares. If that seems like a modest standard, then… look at the NBA as a whole.

“Honestly, a lot of my numbers have gone up this year, which is good,” Barrett said in February. “But if you don’t win, it doesn’t matter, and we didn’t win. You play this game to win, to win titles. That’s the only thing that matters.”

Of course, the next step is the harder one. Barrett is still only 22, and he’ll play a full year as 22 (unless the Knicks end up in the Finals). He’s really young, which is still surprising. But at some point, those are just the numbers on the birth certificate. At some point, maybe immediately, Barrett will stop grading by spec. He is now a player with a salary of $30 million a year. He is no longer a futures stock.

Now, that shouldn’t bother Barrett, because nothing seems to bother him. But he’s committed to the Knicks, and the Knicks have committed to him, and he’s already a Knicks favorite at 22, and by no small amount. all good. Both might be great. Really, it all depends on RJ Barrett now.

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