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Report: Knicks have 1 big concern about RJ Barrett

RJ Barrett in a Knicks uniform

Jan 10, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) celebrates after making a basket against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are a bit worried about their new $107 million man.

Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com reported on Wednesday that some within the Knicks have concerns about the heavy defensive load that fourth-year wing RJ Barrett has had to carry in the early going. Bulpett also quoted a source close to the matter as saying that Barrett is suffering offensively because he has so much ground on the other end to cover due to new backcourt partner Jalen Brunson’s defensive limitations.

Barrett’s shot is in the dumpster through the first three games of the season with nauseating shooting splits of 35/19/83. Though Barrett’s sheer volume has still allowed him to produce 16.3 points per game, it is not the start that the Knicks had been hoping for with the former top-three pick.

Brunson lacks size for his position at 6-foot-2 and may never be an above-average defender. But he was able to get to the Western Conference Finals last season with the Dallas Mavericks alongside another defensive non-stopper in Luka Doncic.

The difference there though may be that the Mavs were so potent offensively with Doncic, a top-five scorer as well as a top-five playmaker, and also had superb wing defenders like Dorian Finney-Smith and Reggie Bullock. The Knicks cannot compete with that on offense and only have Barrett and rim-protector Mitchell Robinson to make up for a starting five that is primarily populated with minuses on defense. Coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive schemes are also notoriously taxing.

There is obviously no need to overreact to a three-game sample size. But with the Knicks committing over $210 million combined to the Brunson-Barrett backcourt this offseason, the concerns may be warranted. Perhaps some within the team are already thinking about another trade target to try and pair with Barrett instead.

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