Sargeant’s Orders: It’s time for the Knicks to bench RJ Barrett


RJ Barrett’s career with the New York Knicks started on a high note. The 6-foot-6-inch guard showed signs of becoming a star; in his second season, he averaged 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. That season New York was the No. 5 seed and lost to the Hawks in five games — a series where Barrett underperformed. Despite his transgressions, many expected the 23-year-old to take a step forward this season; however, he has remained essentially the same player he has always been. After Tuesday night’s disaster performance, where he shot 4-13 (30.8%) and failed to make a shot from downtown in four tries, many fans have been calling on head coach Tom Thibodeau to bench the former Duke star.  

Even when New York won Game 1 last Saturday, it was not because of him. Barrett shot 2-12 with a plus-minus of -12, meaning he did more harm than good. Many, including myself, have seen this all season long by simply watching the games. However, looking at the statistics confirms he is not good enough to start. Unfortunately, the Knicks do not have time on their side; they need to make a decision before it’s too late. If they lose this series, all the good things that happened that season won’t mean anything, as the Knicks will be watching the finals from the couch.  

Some may ask, “If not Barrett, then who?” The answer is anyone. After all, when you compare Barrett’s metrics to that of his nine teammates that garner playoff minutes, he ranks dead last in eFG%, TS%, STL% and WS/48, among many others. Another point to consider is games where Barrett didn’t play at all. New York owned a 7-2 record when the Duke guard sat, not to mention in these contests, they won by 7.1 points per game, which would lead the NBA. While it’s a small sample size when Barrett doesn’t play, one could argue that without the former Blue Devil playing, James Dolan’s squad plays at a championship level. While some may want to point blame at others on the team, the sad truth is the poor play is mainly from Barrett. Every starter has a net rating of over 10 when the guard doesn’t play, and Josh Hart has a rating of 24.9 — evident that Barrett kills possessions and fails to create significant offense at this point in his career. Cleveland guard Darius Garland has been making the former No. 3 pick look silly on defense as well, scoring 32 points in Game 2. 

Looking past Barrett’s Game 1 performance, the bench is what won New York that contest. Hart was the star, coming off the bench with 17 points, 10 boards and the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:49 left. Isaiah Haternstein had eight points of his own, and Obi Toppin scored nine points in the third quarter, which kept New York afloat. The New York bench as a whole had a plus-10.5 net rating, meaning they outscored the Cavs by 10.5 points per 100 possessions. If anything, Hart should be running with the first unit. 

This article in no way is meant to disrespect Barrett. The Toronto native is an accomplished professional athlete, and as a Knicks fan myself, I am more than happy having Barrett on the team. He certainly has the potential to be one of the game’s best, however, the numbers do not lie. Barrett needs to play a reduced role and develop his game more. Maybe a change of scenery is all he needs, as the Knicks are tied 1-1 with the Cavaliers and will head to Madison Square Garden for a Friday night Game 3 showdown. Barrett has a positive attitude on everything and is looking ahead to returning home. 

“I know it’s gonna be loud,” Barrett said. “The fans are gonna be into it. It’s gonna be a great atmosphere. It’s the most special place to play, so it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”  

All season long, the Knicks coaching staff has kicked the can down the road, however, that road is coming to an end; If Thibodeau and the Knicks are serious about winning a championship or even making a deep run in the playoffs, they need to seriously reevaluate the role they are giving Barrett.  

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