The New York Knicks surely envisioned RJ Barrett being a major part of their future when they selected him with the No. 3 overall pick of the 2019 NBA draft, and they made a commitment with an eye on that future Monday.
Barrett and the Knicks are finalizing a four-year deal worth up to $120 million, agent Bill Duffy told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
As Wojnarowski noted, this deal will have a significant impact on New York's pursuit of Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell:
Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn
New York’s Leon Rose set a Monday night deadline with Utah to reach an agreement on a trade for Mitchell – or the Knicks would commit to the Barrett extension, sources said. Knicks, Jazz closed gap on deal points in recent days on a Mitchell trade, but neither would go further.
Barrett was previously scheduled for restricted free agency in the summer of 2023, meaning the Knicks could have waited until after the 2022-23 campaign and still had some control over the situation with the right to match any offer from other teams.
However, the Duke product was eligible for an extension ahead of next season, and New York decided not to wait much longer.
"One hundred percent. It's also been a goal of mine," Barrett said of wanting to be with New York long term in March, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. "I've been trying to play my butt off and do everything out there to achieve that."
Bondy also noted no Knicks draft pick has signed a second contract with the organization since Charlie Ward in 1999, so Barrett helped the team break its "dubious streak" as well.
The guard, who helped New York reach the playoffs as a secondary option alongside Julius Randle in 2020-21, has shown encouraging signs while increasing his scoring totals in each of his three seasons in the league.
He averaged 14.3 points per game as a rookie, 17.6 points per game in his second season and 20.0 points a night this past season as someone who can attack the basket off the bounce, all while providing rebounding support (5.8 per game) from the backcourt.
Barrett will also be just 22 years old throughout the 2022-23 campaign, so continued improvement will only serve to raise his high ceiling.
That's not to say there aren't concerns, as efficiency is a question mark after he shot 44.1 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from deep in 2020-21 but fell to 40.8 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from deep last season.
Ultimately, Barrett may not be someone who is the primary option for a championship contender, but he is young and has shown improvement as a volume scorer every year to this point. He is also accustomed to playing in the spotlight that New York brings and has expressed a desire to stay with the team in the past.
That is plenty for the Knicks to build around with this new contract.