Building Block: RJ Barrett
From a sentimental standpoint, there's perhaps nobody who was more impacted by any of the recent dealings than RJ Barrett. After all, it's not often you get to return home to play in front of friends and family regularly.
Barrett may have played high school basketball in Florida and college basketball at Duke, but he was born and raised in Toronto. He's one of the better Canadians in arguably the greatest generation of Canadian basketball. He's now probably the best Canadian to ever play for the country's lone NBA team.
After some struggles during his first couple of seasons out of college, Barrett was developing into a legitimate Big Three-type player for the Knicks. He even became the first Knicks rookie deal recipient to sign a multiyear extension in New York this century.
That extension was for four years and $120 million. It was signed before the start of last season. That extension kicked in this year, so he's going to be under contract for three additional seasons after this one; he's basically locked into being a Toronto cornerstone unless he's traded again.
Barrett seems to understand the assignment. He's been scoring at a career-best 20.2 points per game since the trade. His free throw shooting is back to his moribund old days, but his three-point shooting, rebounding, and ball protection are looking better.
There's still work to be done on playmaking and defense, but Barrett is showing to be a quick study in getting comfortable in Toronto. That's not surprising, considering it's a return to his roots.