Has RJ Barrett Done Enough to be Considered a Star?

RJ Barrett has been one of the few bright spots for the New York Knicks this season. Despite averaging just about 18 points per game for the season, he has really picked up his play in 2022. In fact, Barrett has scored at least 17 points in 18 of his last 20 games. While Barrett’s efforts don’t always show up in the win column, the young stud is continuing to grow and blossom into one of the league’s best young players. 

The Clutch Gene

Every star player in the NBA is expected to take the last shot for their team. The “clutch gene” if you will, is an instinct that only some of the best star players in the NBA contain. Players such as Damian Lillard, DeMar DeRozan, and Luka Doncic who are known for their late-game heroics are often referred to as some of the greatest stars in basketball. RJ Barrett, while not on the same tier as some of these guys, has proven time and time again that he can hit big shots. Barrett drilled a memorable bank-shot fade-away three-pointer to defeat the Boston Celtics earlier this season. But, one lucky bank shot can’t be indicative enough to call him clutch right?

Actually, RJ Barrett ranks near the top of the league when it comes to clutch time situations. The league defines “clutch time” as whenever the game is within 5 points in the final 5 minutes. While the league average for Effective Field Goal (eFg) percentage during clutch time is just 45.9%, Barrett’s eFg is way above that average at 63.4%. Moreover, on shots in the top 1% of potential win probability impact, Barrett ranks nearly 20% above league average! Statistically, RJ Barrett is one of the best clutch shot makers in the league. For a team that has lost a lot of close games, maybe RJ Barrett should be featured more later in games. 

How Barrett Compares to Other #3 Picks

NBA teams have struck gold in recent memory with the number 3 overall pick in the draft. Barrett, of course, was drafted third overall to the Knicks in the 2019 draft. While Barrett has had a great start to his young career, he’s been outperformed by other #3 picks. LaMelo Ball, last year’s third overall pick, will be making his all-star debut this weekend in Cleveland. Speaking of Cleveland, the Cavs used their third overall selection to add Evan Mobley. Mobley already might win Rookie of the Year and become one of the league’s best big men. 

Recently, the 3rd overall pick has almost always been a star player. In fact, in all three drafts before Barrett’s, the 3rd overall pick became an all-star (Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown). While Barrett is certainly great and younger than these players, he is certainly not on their level quite yet. Even greats like Michael Jordan, Carmelo Anthony, and James Harden were selected third. It’s fair to say that RJ Barrett has star potential and will likely become a star sooner rather than later. However, it is too soon to say that RJ Barrett has done enough to be considered a star player.

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