If you’re looking for the epicenter of horrendously premature and ridiculous hot takes, look no further than the NBA Summer League.
The early-offseason slate of games not only allows coaching staffs to get a look at fringe roster players, but it gives younger players to start or continue developing their NBA games.
Most of the advertising toward viewers when it comes to the Summer League, however, is getting that first glimpse of each team’s set of prized rookies. It’s a quick dive in for them as they were chosen just weeks before at the draft in late June.
That’s usually lost when analyzing open performances as pundits, personalities, and fans alike fly off the handle with predictions and comparisons based on a handful of exhibition games.
For New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett, that’s exactly what happened upon his introduction to life in the NBA.
The No. 3 pick of the draft — now the newest hope to help turn around a franchise mired in mediocrity and dysfunction over the past 20 years — experienced the full spectrum of reactions during his five-game stint in Las Vegas.
The Duke product couldn’t have gotten off to a more concerning start at the Summer League.
Barrett shot just 22.2-percent from the field in 32 minutes of play in his debut against the New Orleans Pelicans, recording 10 points on 4-of-18 shooting from the field.
Things got even worse in his second game against the Phoenix Suns, putting up eight points on 3-of-15 shooting (20-percent).
Cue the panic.
Pundits questioned his ability to make it in the NBA, fans started labeling him a bust.
“I haven’t played a game in three months.”
It’s a classic overreaction based on limited sample sizes. Even Stephen Curry had the basketball world questioning his legitimacy after he shot 32-percent from the field during his first Summer League in 2009.
After a two-day break, Barrett came back and began to find his form.
He put up 17 points on 42.9-percent shooting with 10 rebounds and six assists on Jul. 9 against the Toronto Raptors. The following night against the Los Angeles Lakers, he added 21 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists.
But it all came together on Saturday night against the Washington Wizards as Barrett saved his best outing for the Knicks’ Summer League finale.
The 19-year-old was two rebounds away from a triple-double, posting 21 points and 10 assists in the process. It was his most efficient night as well, shooting 7-of-13 from the field.
Five outings, 15.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists per game in his very first taste of the NBA.
Let’s hold the phone on writing Barrett off, shall we? Just wait until he starts playing against the very best the league has to offer this Fall.
After all, his game is projected to continue improving the more he settles into life with the Knicks.