For a player who spends a lot of time scoring alone, it’s a little strange how rarely we talk about R. J. Barrett alone. Barrett was averaging 20 points per game at age 21 and was a year short of finishing. 2nd in the league in minutes for a playoff team, but discussion of his game always seems to take place in the context of others.
When we talk about no. 3rd pick in the 2019 NBA draft, we Indeed talking about how he stacks up with that year’s No. 1 and No. 2 picks, former Duke teammate Zion Williamson and NBA lightning star Ja Morant. When we talk about his offensive development, we Indeed talking about how he fits alongside fellow left-handed forward Julius Randle in a rising and then falling Knicks. When we talk about how likely he is to become a star himself, we Indeed talking about what role he will play in New York City’s eternal pursuit of that elusive rainmaker who could bring the franchise out of years of stagnation and return, if not to championship contention, then at least to sustainable competence.
So it’s only fitting that even the late Monday night newscast that the fourth-year forward had achieved generational wealth was indeed a blow to the bank. During the transmission of words about Barrett completion of a four-year contract extension which could earn him up to $120 million by 2027, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski drew attention almost immediately to how Barrett’s new bag “complicate[es] in [Knicks’] off-season chasing Utah Jazz All-Star Donovan Mitchell.” It is perhaps equally appropriate that Voi quickly noticed Barrett became the first New York player to sign a second multi-year contract with the team. since Charlie Ward in 1999; more than any other Nick, Barrett stands at the crossroads of New York’s decrepit recent past and its long-awaited rising future. But no matter which path he chooses, he will never go alone.
First, the nuts and bolts: unlike Zion’s draft mates, Jah and Noh. Darius Garland’s 5th pick, Barrett didn’t get the maximum – and, in fact, got a hell of a lot less than a rookie-scale five-year, $193 million extension that would represent his highest possible dollar. Only (“only!”) $107 million deal is fully guaranteed, according to Shams Charania from Athleticand the rest are tied to a range of incentives. Ian Begley of SNY says the agreement includes escalator bonuses “tied to All-Star Game selections, any of three All-NBA teams, or any of two All-NBA Defense teams.” The base salary increase would see Barrett earn just under $23.7 million for the 2023-24 season, placing him roughly the 22nd highest-paid winger in the NBA this season.
This level of pay doesn’t seem particularly burdensome, especially in the NBA after the bubbles and without fans in the stands where salary cap line resumed its rise to an even more unprecedented level. You could also argue that Barrett’s performance isn’t entirely justified at this point given his well-recorded scoring battles: Of the 287 players who have logged at least 2,500 minutes in the NBA since 2019, Barrett ranks first. 276th in field goal percentage (which explains why 3-pointers are worth more than 2-pointers) and 277th in true hit percentage (which also affects the value of free throws).
These grim figures deserve contextual consideration, nonetheless, given Barrett’s evolution into both a high-volume player and New York’s top perimeter defenseman when Reggie Bullock traveled to Dallas last offseason. Last season, he faced the toughest average game of any Nick player, spending significant time on defense in four positions and also taking on a large offensive load, especially late in the season. According to BBall indexhigh utilization Barrett combination as well as a constant diet of defensive assignments against frequently used opponents last season put him in the company of a host of All-Stars – Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Fred VanVleet, Jrue Holiday, Dejount Murray, Andrew Wiggins – and other solid perimeter players. participants capable of pulling two-way work with a high level of leverage.
What makes players like George and Butler superstars is their ability to create and execute shots effectively while carrying heavy defensive workloads. Whether Barrett can join their ranks as a permanent All-Star nominee will likely depend on whether he can return to the form in which he hit 40.1 percent from three-point range as a sophomore; whether he can excel in non-bounce shooting after scoring just 38 out of 147 (25.9 percent) in pull-ups to date; and whether he can develop the strength, drive and touch to significantly improve his inside finisher skills after hitting just 54.6 percent in the restricted area over three pro seasons.
So New York paying for it now is a split rate. In terms of pure dollars and cents, the Knicks are betting that the deal will be about 18 percent of their projected 23-24 salary cap—a percentage that, again, will decrease as the ceiling rises, and especially as of how the cash flow out Another NBA broadcast rights deal strikes at the league’s financial system – through seasons aged 23 to 26, the resilient and talented young wing will look like a deal soon. (Barrett’s deal is immediately reminiscent of the four-year contract extension that Boston granted to Jaylen Brown. back in 2019— a contract that paid off well for the Celtics.)
Knicks president Leon Rose and company are betting they can create a better on-court context for Barrett than he’s been in since he arrived in New York. In Barrett’s first two seasons, the Knicks held 29th as well as 27threspectively, in 3-point attempts per game before jumping up to 10th last season; he spent much of his first three years playing in very cramped lineups that featured a variety of point guards, non-shooters, or throwers who made mistakes, such as Elfried Payton, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith Jr., and Alec Burks. The Knicks’ offense is still likely to have some overload as coach Tom Thibodeau is set to play rim-defending and non-stretching centers like Mitchell Robinson, Jericho Sims and newcomer Isaiah Hartenstein. But the addition of Jalen Brunson, a young, smart, stabilizing agent who shoots just under 39 percent from three-point range at last two seasons— gives the Knicks another threat to goalscoring and playing chances that could help turn some of Barrett’s less successful shots into more valuable opportunities. It also gives defenders a reason to worry about another playmaker on the perimeter, which could help open up gaps for Barrett’s strong attacks under the basket:
Do you know who else could draw the attention of defenders, open up the middle of the court and help break the cover before passing the ball to Barrett so he could hit the paint in the game on the second wing? Mitchell, who the Knicks would certainly like to poach from the Jazz, who is apparently on the verge of a resurgence, but whom the Utah boss Danny Ainge doesn’t seem to want to give up anything less than the sun and stars. This asking price may or may not have included Barrett at various stages of the negotiations; now, however, Barrett is almost certainly expelled due to Regulations on “poison pills” in his new contract, making it difficult for both parties to match the salary in the deal he was involved in.
Sources say New York’s Leon Rose set a Monday night deadline with Utah to reach an agreement on a Mitchell trade or the Knicks will commit to a contract extension with Barrett. The Knicks and Jazz have closed the deal point gap on the Mitchell deal in recent days, but neither has gone any further.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 30, 2022
According to Charania and Tony Jones from AthleticThe Knicks recently offered veteran quarterback Evan Fournier, 2020 lottery pick Obie Toppin, an “extra paycheck” and five future first-round picks, two of which were undefended, for Mitchell. After Yuta objected, Mark Berman of New York Post reported that the stumbling block in the negotiations remains “the number of unprotected first-round picks in the package” that the Knicks will send, and the Jazz will look for more—perhaps as many as four unprotected first-round picks. The gap between the offer and the asking price is noticeable and consistent Reporting by Mark Stein that “there’s a good chance that the Lakers, armed with Russell Westbrook’s huge $47.1 million contract expiring, will ‘be involved’ in any possible deal with Mitchell, as “the two future first-round picks that the Lakers will have in 2027 and 2029, the kind of top-notch draft picks that Ainge is believed to covet.” However, it is also notable that the distance between “yes” and “no” does not seem to depend on which young players travel from New York to Utah.
Maybe Ainge really “envy” Barrett, because Ian Begley of SNY reported and “really appreciated” the 22-year-old as Voy wrote. Perhaps, as Jake Fisher said from Bleach Report reported earlier this summer, Jazz didn’t really care much about Barrett, seeing the prospect of giving it a nine-figure extension as well as doing a complete overhaul as, to some extent, hustle back. (Jones from Athletic recently reported that, in addition to picks, Utah wants “young players with managed contracts who provide significant control over the team.” It seems reasonable to harbor a healthy dose of skepticism that Ainge sees Barrett’s $120 million as more “manageable” than, say, $8.96 million by Quentin Grimes.)
Maybe the truth is somewhere in between: Ainge loves Barrett, but loves more the idea of an insecure future that the Knicks are choosing and therefore wants them all; that Rose wanted to include Barrett in…