RJ Barrett

NBA Announces 2020/21 Rising Stars Rosters

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the pared-down nature of the NBA’s 2021 All-Star weekend, a Rising Stars Game showcasing the league’s top rookies and sophomores won’t be played this year.

However, the league has still announced the rosters for the event, via NBA Top Shot, naming the 20 players who would have been selected to participate if the game was taking place. Here are those rosters:

U.S. Team:

World Team:

The 20-man group includes eight rookies and 11 sophomores. The 20th player, Porter, made the cut as a sophomore since he missed his entire rookie season in 2018/19 due to an injury — this is technically his third year of NBA service.

Knicks Notes: Randle, Barrett, Ntilikina, More

While Knicks forward Julius Randle has been viewed as a potential trade candidate for most of the last year, Ian Begley of SNY.tv (video link) says there “prominent members” of the organization that view Randle as part of the team’s young core going forward.

Having said that, Begley notes that the Knicks will still probably explore possible trades for Randle before this year’s deadline, if only to gauge his value around the league. Based on Begley’s report, it sounds like the team is more likely to consider incoming inquiries on the 26-year-old than to actively shop him themselves.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • RJ Barrett‘s role is worth keeping an eye on, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who observes that the second-year forward has logged 27 or more minutes just once in the Knicks’ last six games after leading the league in minutes played earlier in the season. Asked about Barrett’s dip in playing time, head coach Tom Thibodeau cited New York’s depth and a need to try different lineup combinations when the team falls behind early, as it did vs. Orlando on Wednesday.
  • While Barrett continues to start and play a rotation role, that’s not the case for another former Knicks lottery pick — Frank Ntilikina hasn’t appeared in a game since December 29. According to Berman, Ntilikina is still working on his conditioning after spending a week in the health and safety protocols, but isn’t a great bet to return to the rotation even when he’s back to full speed, as he appears to be “mostly trade bait” at this point.
  • Given the Knicks’ need for star power, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic considers 42 potential targets around the league, beginning with the presumably untouchable stars before moving onto some impact players who could be more realistic options, including Zach LaVine and Kyle Lowry.

Atlantic Notes: Robinson, Rivers, Siakam, Barrett

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau praised Mitchell Robinson and his confidence, expressing optimism that a rise will come for the 22-year-old center, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes.

Robinson, who was drafted by the Knicks No. 36 overall in 2018, has started in all six of the team’s contests this season. Thibodeau was hesitant to name Robinson as a starter prior to the season, jumpstarting a competition between him and Nerlens Noel.

“Let’s talk about Mitch,” Thibodeau said. “He’s just, every day he’s growing and growing and growing. The way he’s working, studying, preparing for the games. you could see his confidence grow. He’s making multiple effort plays. He’s a hard guy to score over. And he’s really the anchor of the defense back there. And offensively there’s a lot of room for him to grow. He’s putting a lot of time in.”

As for when Robinson could take the next step in his improvement, the veteran coach gave a blunt response: “You guys haven’t seen it yet, but it’s coming.” Robinson has averaged 8.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in 27.8 minutes per game to start the season.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Sixers coach Doc Rivers has inspired others while reaching a new milestone in his career, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Rivers, a former head coach with Orlando, is now 10th on the all-time coaching regular-season wins list, though he remains focused on his current team and not on any career achievements. “I don’t look at what I’m doing, honestly. I’d love to say — I know it means something and I know it means a lot to people, but I just I don’t know,” Rivers said. “I’ve never been able to put myself in that place where I’m thinking about what I’m doing. I think I have fooled myself that I’m really young and I have a whole career to go, and maybe that’s why I don’t, but I do feel like I’ve got a lot to do and so I don’t think about it that often.”
  • Raptors star Pascal Siakam continued his struggles in the team’s 120-116 loss to New Orleans on Saturday, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. Siakam finished with just 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting, fouling out in less than 25 minutes. “He struggled, no doubt about it,” coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought he had a few decent plays and a few good drives in there, but he obviously struggled. Half-count off rhythm there at both ends a little bit, which is getting him in foul trouble and not letting him be able to finish some plays at the offensive end as well.”
  • Knicks guard RJ Barrett vowed to continue shooting despite being in a slump last week, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. Barrett turned his play around on Saturday, giving New York a 25-point performance on 8-of-15 shooting. He also finished with four threes, five rebounds and three assists in 42 minutes.

Atlantic Notes: Barrett, Thibodeau, Powell

Knicks guard RJ Barrett is in the midst of a miserable shooting slump, Marc Berman of the New York Post notes. The No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft has made just 19 of 72 field-goal attempts since scoring 26 points in the team’s opener. He’s also missed all 21 of his 3-point tries in the last four games. However, Tom Thibodeau said this week that Barrett contributes in many ways.

“He’s doing a lot of things for us defensively, moving well without the ball. He’s getting downhill,” the Knicks coach said. “There’s a lot of room for him to grow. … Just having a wing to do things he can do, his versatility is a big asset for the team and willingness to make plays for people.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Thibodeau has stuck with the same starting five in the first five games because he wants to establish chemistry and a coherent rotation, Berman writes in a separate story. “I think they’re familiar with each other,’’ Thibodeau said. “It’s a good balance of how they complement each other. We have three guys that can go off the dribble pretty effectively. We have shooting with Reggie (Bullock) and defense. And Mitch (Mitchell Robinson) is really coming on. So I like the balance of that group, especially with our bench.’’
  • The Raptors have played better with Norman Powell in the starting lineup but it creates other issues, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star writes. In 90 career starts, Powell has averaged 13.3 PPG while shooting 41% from 3-point range. Toronto could go small by taking Aron Baynes out of the lineup but that would affect the second unit and reduce Alex Len‘s playing time, Smith adds.
  • ICYMI, virtually every Atlantic Division teams has checked in with the Rockets regarding disgruntled star James Harden. Get the details here.

Knicks Exercise Contract Options On Barrett, Knox

The Knicks have exercised their 2021/22 contract options on recent lottery picks RJ Barrett and Kevin Knox, the team’s PR department tweets.

Barrett, the third pick of last year’s draft, will make approximately $8.6MM in his third season. Knox, chosen ninth in the 2018 draft, will make $5.85MM in his fourth season during the 2021/22 campaign.

Barrett was the third-leading scorer among rookies last season at 14.3 PPG in 30.4 MPG while appearing in 56 games.

Knox’s playing time and production regressed dramatically in his second season, but the Knicks’ new regime thinks enough of him to lock in his salary through the next two seasons. He has averaged 9.9 PPG and 3.7 RPG in 140 career games.

Notably, the Knicks’ announcement didn’t mention recently-acquired big man Omari Spellman, the team’s other player with a 2021/22 rookie scale option. New York has until December 29 to make a decision on Spellman, but teams generally announce all their exercised options at once, so the team may be declining that one.

Knicks Rumors: Cap Room, Oladipo, Barrett, Robinson

Ian Begley of SNY.tv reported last week that the Knicks are open to accommodating salary-dump deals with their cap room this fall, and in his preview of the NBA offseason, ESPN’s Zach Lowe confirms that the team has conveyed that it’s willing to be patient and gather assets using its cap space.

However, Lowe suggests it’s not clear what exactly the Knicks’ definition of “unwanted salaries” is, adding that they may want to take on players who can help the 2020/21 club without compromising future cap room. In other words, a deal that resembles the Clippers’ acquisition of Maurice Harkless last summer might be of interest to the Knicks — that was ostensibly a salary dump, with Los Angeles receiving a first-round pick for taking on Harkless, but the veteran forward also became a regular rotation player in L.A.

As for whether the Knicks are looking to spend big on any free agents, Lowe speculates that the Knicks may be willing to go that route only for a handful of players who are “under some age threshold and available at the right price.” It’s possible that young free agents like Fred VanVleet and Christian Wood – both of whom have been linked to New York – could fit that bill if bidding doesn’t go too high.

Here’s more on the Knicks:

  • The Knicks have had interest in Victor Oladipo in the past, but may have shifted into “wait and watch” mode on the Pacers guard, according to Lowe. In other words, New York probably isn’t willing to give up significant assets for Oladipo without some on-court proof that he’s fully recovered from the quad tendon injury that sidelined him for a year.
  • New York has been reluctant to discuss RJ Barrett or Mitchell Robinson in any trade talks, sources tell Lowe. If the Knicks look to move up in the draft, I imagine teams would ask about one or both of those two players. However, they’re New York’s most obvious long-term cornerstones, so it’s no surprise that the team isn’t eager to make them available.
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic profiles new Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose in an in-depth story. A report earlier this week indicated that Rose is earning $8MM on his new deal with the Knicks.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Sixers, Barrett, Temple

The Raptors are among the teams trying to make the most of what has been an unusual and unprecedented pre-draft process, as assistant general manager Dan Tolzman explained to reporters on Wednesday. Tolzman estimated that there are about 50 players Toronto likes in this draft, adding that he believes the club can land a rotation-caliber player at No. 29 and potentially at No. 59 too.

“Usually there’s a lot of risers and fallers based on the draft combine, individual workouts, 3-on-3 workouts, all that kind of stuff, that isn’t happening,” Tolzman said, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic. “I’d say the best way to describe it is very balanced. There’s going to be a lot of rotation-level players that come out of this draft, kind of all across the board.”

Tolzman also suggested that the lack of pre-draft workouts and other activities for prospects this year may result in some rising players being overlooked until after the draft.

“I think probably more than usual, the undrafted market is going to be huge because normally, players that maybe early on were expected to go undrafted, they worked their way into the draft picture, and those workouts and those opportunities for them to do so just didn’t happen this year,” Tolzman said. “… You’re going to see guys come out of nowhere and be contributors next year.”

A strong undrafted free agent market may benefit the Raptors, who have done very well in that area in recent years, most notably with their signing of Fred VanVleet in 2016. Toronto’s top 2019 UDFA signing, Terence Davis, earned a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team this year.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • New Sixers head coach Doc Rivers is interested in adding former Bulls assistant Roy Rogers to his staff, a league source tells Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Rogers spent the 2019/20 season on Jim Boylen‘s staff in Chicago, but isn’t returning to the Bulls following the hiring of Billy Donovan.
  • Multiple people in touch with Knicks decision-makers tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv that they expect New York to take a player’s fit with RJ Barrett into account when considering potential roster moves this offseason.
  • Reacting to a pair of recent tidbits from John Hollinger of The Athletic, Net Income of NetsDaily considers whether the emergence of Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot might dissuade the Nets from picking up Garrett Temple‘s $5MM team option for the 2020/21 campaign. Temple was a regular part of Brooklyn’s rotation last season, but struggled with his shot (.378/.329/.805) and may be expendable for tax reasons.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Knicks, Raptors, Sixers

The Celtics‘ lack of depth was exposed during the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, who contends that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge deserves some criticism for the club’s thin bench and a failure to make upgrades at the trade deadline.

In Washburn’s view, the Celtics’ squad was “cluttered” with too many non-contributors who couldn’t help the team this year. Ainge needs to focus this offseason on adding more players who can be counted on for minutes in big games, says Washburn.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

Mixed Reviews On R.J. Barrett’s Rookie Season

RJ Barrett had an up-and-down rookie season, but the 2019 No. 3 overall selection flashed the top-notch potential that made him a tantalizing pick. Some within the league believe Barrett’s strides are promising, as Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic hears.

“I think he’s a got a bright future if the Knicks handle him the right way and (give him) the resources to keep improving,” one Western Conference scout told Vorkunov.

Barrett’s 14.3 points per game were third among all rookies, though efficiency remains an issue. Barrett ranked in the 24th percentile as a scorer off the pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports, and his turnover rate left much to be desired.

Another rival scout told Vorkunov that he doesn’t believe Barrett will become a “high-level” play-maker, but his ability to get the paint consistently provides hope for his future. Still, free throw shooting is an area of concern, as the rookie made just 61.9% of his attempts. Vorkunov notes that – within the last 10 years – only three rookies who shot at least 200 attempts during their respective rookie seasons were worse from the line (Nerlens Noel, Ben Simmons, Elfrid Payton).

Still, there’s optimism surrounding Barrett’s long-term viability in the league.

“Not sure (shooting guard is) his long-term role moving forward,” the aforementioned Western Conference scout added. “… I like his makeup. The way he plays. There’s definitely a competitive side to him that is not very common with a lot of these young players coming in … The pick for the Knicks was a good one … Once he finds his comfort zone he’ll be a really good player. He’s got to work on his shot.”

Some Knicks Were Frustrated By Randle’s Playing Style

Some Knicks players, including prized rookie RJ Barrett, were frustrated during the 2019/20 season by Julius Randle‘s approach on offense, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

As Berman explains, Barrett – who is accustomed to having the ball in his hands – was among the players put off by Randle’s tendency to hang onto the ball too long and overdribble. While Berman suggests that the chemistry between Barrett and Randle will be worth keeping an eye on going forward, he notes that 2019’s No. 3 overall pick wasn’t the only player who was irked by Randle’s playing style.

“A lot of players felt like that with the exception of Elfrid Payton,” one source told The Post.

Unlike every other free agent signed by the Knicks during the 2019 offseason, Randle received a guaranteed multiyear commitment. He’ll earn $18.9MM in 2020/21, so it’s safe to say he’ll be back with the team unless there’s an offseason trade.

Reports before February’s trade deadline indicated that the Knicks were willing to discuss Randle, with Ian Begley of SNY.tv writing this week that the club engaged with the Hornets on a potential swap that would have included Randle, Dennis Smith, Terry Rozier, and Malik Monk, among other assets.

Assuming Randle returns, one Eastern Conference personnel person who spoke to Berman thinks the Knicks would be wise to avoid tasking him with the lead scoring role, despite the fact that the big man put up a team-high 19.5 PPG in 2019/20 (Marcus Morris scored 19.6 PPG as a Knick, but was traded in February). Randle struggled when he found himself receiving the brunt of opposing defenses’ attention, turning the ball over frequently.

“He absolutely should not be your No. 1 or even No. 2 option, maybe not even No. 3 on a serious contender,” that personnel man told Berman. “He doesn’t have a good enough feel (and is) much too ball-dominant. I don’t trust his decisions with the ball. As sixth man, he would fit perfectly because I don’t think he gives you much defensively either. That’s more in line with a sixth-man role.”