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The Knicks Desperately Need RJ Barrett

After 10 games to start the 2023-2024 season, the New York Knicks sit at an even 5-5. Although this record would peg the Knicks as an average team, New York so far this year has shown two different sides of themselves that have evened out to an average record. With RJ Barrett, New York has played at a high level, however without him, New York has not won a game.

The Knicks are 5-2 so far this season when Barrett is on the court. Due to some nagging injuries and illnesses, Barrett has missed three of the first 10 games to start the season. New York is 0-3 in those games.

Knicks With Barrett

So far this season, the Knicks have been a great team when Barrett is on the court. Individually, Barrett is putting up the best numbers of his career in this young season. In seven games, he is averaging 22.6 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists. The real improvement for Barrett has come from his efficiency. He is shooting 48.7 percent from the field, 50 percent from three, and 84.8 percent from the free throw line. These numbers would all be career highs for any season in his career.

This enormous step forward for Barrett has had just as big as an impact on the rest of the team. The starting lineup of Barrett plus Jalen Brunson, Quentin Grimes, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson have a +20.5 Net Rating. Barrett seems to have settled into his role next to Brunson and Randle as the primary scorers. Last year, it seemed Barrett had a difficult time keeping consistent shooting percentages as the team felt out the addition of Brunson. This season, Barrett looks slowed down and is finding himself much easier shots as a result.

As a team when Barrett plays, the Knicks are averaging 113.1 points per game and are shooting 45 percent from the field and 39 percent from three. The three-point numbers really stand out as 39 percent would be second amongst the entire NBA. Three point percentage was one of the main issues for the Knicks last season, but Barrett's improved individual shooting and ability to drive and kick to open teammates has made a big difference in the seven games he has played in.

In the latest three-game homestand New York had, Barrett's impact was truly seen. New York won every game by at least 14 points, and in those games Barrett had a plus/minus of +13, +26, and +26. What also makes this run impressive is Barrett gets a lot of his minutes with the bench unit of Immanuel Quickley, Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart and Isaiah Hartenstein. Barrett operates as the top offensive option with this lineup, and over this three game win streak the bench has not only kept New York in the game, but has expanded the lead.

Knicks Without Barrett

Life without Barrett has been incredibly difficult so far for the Knicks. The team is 0-3 in these games, and the offense has become a shell of itself. As a team in these games, the Knicks are averaging 97.3 points per game and are shooting 39 percent from the field and 29 percent from three. These numbers would all rank dead last in the league compared to every other team.

When Barrett has missed a game, it has been Josh Hart who steps in the starting lineup. That new lineup of Hart plus Brunson, Grimes, Randle, and Robinson has had an abysmal -17.2 Net Rating this year. That is a total difference of 37.2 Net Rating when Barrett is in that lineup instead of Hart.

Randle has also really struggled in the games Barrett misses this year. In those three games, he is averaging 15.7 points on a mere 27.8 percent from the field and an abysmal 13 percent from three. It seems that Randle needs Barrett on the floor to take some of the defensive pressure off of him. Barrett's improved three-point shooting and driving ability creates much more space for Randle to operate on and off the ball which has improved his efficiency drastically in games Barrett plays.

Thankfully for the Knicks, Barrett only missed Monday's loss against the Celtics due to an illness, so signs point to him being ready for their next game the Hawks. New York will look to pick up their second win against the Hawks this season Wednesday night in Atlanta.