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NBA Rumors: Knicks Wanted to Wait Until October for RJ Barrett Contract Extension

Erin WalshSeptember 2, 2022

Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The New York Knicks signed R.J. Barrett to a four-year, $120 million extension earlier this week, but the move is being viewed as a "consolation" after losing out on Donovan Mitchell, who was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the Knicks wanted to wait until the mid-October deadline to sign Barrett to an extension.

"They didn’t want to pay RJ now, they like RJ but he’s not one of their guys," an NBA source told Berman "The preference was to trade him in a Donovan deal. A few weeks ago, if they got Donovan without Barrett in the deal, they weren’t going to pay RJ now."

The source also told Berman that the Knicks "had to do something" once they lost out on Mitchell, so they signed Barrett to an extension.

The Knicks offered a package of Barrett, Obi Toppin, Mitchell Robinson and three unprotected first-round picks to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Mitchell, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

However, the offer clearly wasn't enough for Jazz executive Danny Ainge, who dealt Mitchell to the Cavaliers in exchange for Lauri Markkanen, 2022 14th pick Ochai Agbaji, Collin Sexton, three unprotected first-round picks and two pick swaps.

The Knicks selected Barrett third overall in the 2019 NBA draft out of Duke.

The decision to select him was not unanimous, according to Berman, though Knicks president Leon Rose referred to Barrett as a key piece of the team's future in a statement announcing his extension:

“We are thrilled to announce a well-deserved extension for RJ Barrett, a core piece of our team’s foundation. At only 22 years old, he has elevated his game each season, solidifying himself as a force on both ends of the court. We believe he will continue to improve because of his passion for the game and dedication to his craft. We want to continue to build our team and culture around players like RJ who possess these values and qualities.”

Barrett, who is entering his fourth season in the NBA, had a career year in 2021-22, averaging 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 70 games while shooting 40.8 percent from the floor and 34.2 percent from deep.

The Canadian has improved in each of his seasons in the league, and there's no reason to believe he can't hit another level this year. However, he's no Mitchell, and an NBA executive referred to him as the "third-best player on a contending team" while speaking with Berman.

If the Knicks have another opportunity to land a star player in the future, it seems like Barrett could be available for trade. That said, the franchise will need to be more willing to part ways with some of its first-round picks if it ever hopes to bring in a cornerstone player.

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