Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
A Western Conference scout who watched the Knicks throughout Summer League came away wondering if RJ Barrett would be able to compete in the NBA as a rookie.
He had questions about Barrett's shooting, ability to get by defenders and overall athleticism.
That same scout watched Barrett on Monday night, nearly four months later, and came away with a different impression.
"He looked like a different player," the scout said. "I couldn't believe it. He didn't press, didn't force anything. Looks like the Knicks have something special here."
Barrett's numbers through four games put him in elite company.
He's the youngest player in NBA history to have at least 80 points and 30 rebounds in his opening four games, per Forbes. He had 19 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in the Knicks' win over the Bulls on Monday. He's the first Knicks rookie since Clyde Frazier to have at least 19 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a game.
Overall, Barrett is second among rookies in scoring with 20.5 points per game (Heat G Kendrick Nunn is averaging 21 points per game), is hitting 47 percent of his threes and pulling down 7.5 rebounds per game.
"I don't think any of us would have predicted this after Las Vegas," the scout said.
Another scout interviewed for this story said that the league knew that Barrett would try to go to his left regularly after what they saw at Duke, but he was surprised to see that Barrett has still been so effective on offense given that tendency.
"The way he uses his strength and takes advantage of an angle on drives and creates space around the basket has been impressive," the scout said. "You don't see that out of many rookies."
Evaluators wondered if Barrett could defend in the NBA. And while he hasn't been Bruce Bowen on that end of the floor, one scout said the rookie has exceeded his expectations. "His instincts are better than what we saw coming out of college," the Eastern Conference scout said. "The drive (to play defense) has always seemed to be there, but he's used his strength well to be disruptive on that end of the floor."
Barrett is averaging 2.0 steals per game for New York through four games. The Knicks are being outscored by 1.5 points per game during Barrett's minutes (he's averaging 37 per game) but that's not an accurate indication of his defense.
"He fights on that end," another scout said. "And his athleticism and strength leads you to conclude that he has an upside there."
The scout notes that Barrett has been more effective in transition and as a ball-handler in the pick-and-roll than he expected. The numbers support that. Per NBA.com, Barrett leads the Knicks in pick-and-roll plays when he's the ball handler and is in the middle of the pack for points produced on those plays among NBA players with at least 20 such possessions.
Barrett also ranks in the top 25 in points per possession among the roughly 100 players who have at least 10 possessions in transition, per NBA.com.
"There definitely seems to be a player here," the Western Conference scout who watched Barrett in Summer League play said. "If he continues to improve his shot and individual defense, he can be an impact guy on both ends. New York has something to work with."
Scouts also weighed in on other early season notes, which you can read here.