RJ Barrett is no longer a Knicks stock futures stock

There’s a lot to like about the four-year, $120 million extension that Nicks and RJ Barrett have come close to agreeing.

There is Barrett himself, of course. A few months ago, at the start of the Knicks Jazz dance on Donovan Mitchell, I suggested in a column that even if it took Barrett to sacrifice to make Nick Mitchell, it should be done, especially because it would likely reduce the draft—choose the distance Danny Ainge would ask.

And… well, put it this way: If I had suggested that the Yankees simply ditch Aaron Judge, I’m not sure the backlash would have been too impressed. Barrett trade? Knicks fans were willing to lie on the runway if they loaded Barrett onto a plane to Salt Lake City. Knicks fans love Barrett very much, and Knicks fans have rarely loved anything over the past two decades.

So there is that. This is important.

So does this: Barrett obviously wants to be here. Now, look, $30 million a year isn’t exactly the minimum wage, but the Knicks could have added an extra year and an extra $73 million to sweeten the deal and they didn’t. Barrett is still ready to sign for another four years. When your best players show such affinity with their situation, that’s a great sign.

This is it: The Knicks obviously want Barrett. They want him to be part of the core moving forward alongside Julius Randle and Jalen Bronson – and possibly Mitchell. Knicks still thinks they can get the Mitchell deal even without Barrett included. And by signing it, they would remove this as an option, at least for now. Teams get better by locking in the good players. So far, so good for the Knicks.

There is a lot to get excited about. Barrett was the No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft, and if he didn’t show off-court excitement from Zion Williamson or Ja Morant’s style on the field, he’d embraced a reputation as one of the NBA’s bluesiest white-collar workers.

04/22/06 - RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks drives to the basket
An extension of RJ Barrett’s contract with the Knicks would only be good for both sides.
Jason Szenes for The New York Post

“Some men work so hard because they know someone is watching them,” Tom Tibodo said last winter. “RJ works hard because that is him, because he loves basketball, because he wants to keep improving. And you can see what the results are.”

Barrett has improved, in leaps and bounds, in both the second and third years. It’s hard to know exactly what his ceiling is as a player, but you can be sure he’ll bump into it, and try to reset it. There’s a concern that he’s still a bit of a tweener—he likes to blend it in on the inside but he’s only 6ft 6; He’s comfortable taking all three but can be a sweaty shooter (in fact, he dropped from 40.1 percent to 34.2 from behind the arc from his second to his third year, the only area of ​​his game that slipped).

But it’s not hard to believe that he spent every summer day shooting a few hundred shots a day. That’s just who he is. This is what makes him an intelligent player trying to build something around him. There is no doubt that he cares. If that sounds like a mediocre standard, well… take a look around the NBA.

“Honestly, it’s nice that many of my numbers have gone up this year,” Barrett said in February. “But none of that matters if you don’t win, and we don’t win. You play this game to win trophies. That’s the only thing that should matter.”

Of course, the next step is the hardest. Barrett is still only 22 and will play all year at the age of 22 (unless the Knicks finish in the Finals). It is still remarkable how young he really is. But at some point, these are just numbers on the birth certificate. At some point, perhaps right away, Barrett’s rating will depend on specs. He’s a player who makes $30 million a year now. It is no longer a futures stock.

Now, that shouldn’t bother Barrett, because nothing seems to bother him. But he stuck with the Knicks, and the Knicks stuck with him, and became, at twenty-two, the most famous of the Knicks by no small amount. everything is OK. Everything can be great. Really, it’s all up to RJ Barrett now.

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