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Knicks’ RJ Barrett has All-Star aspirations with help from new teammates

It was a relatively quiet offseason for Knicks swingman RJ Barrett. The former Duke star played in an obscure Olympic qualifier event in Victoria, Canada, but his country didn’t make it to the Tokyo Olympics.

Summer league was not part of the development plan for the No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft. After the 4-1 playoff wipeout versus Atlanta, Knicks brass was bent on adding more shot-creating scoring punch in the backcourt and did so in signing free agents Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier.

But developing Barrett, 21, into an All-Star caliber player — in the next couple of years — still is on the Knicks’ radar. The 6-foot-7 swingman already made a nice leap from a disappointing rookie season to a respectable sophomore campaign.

That doesn’t mean Barrett isn’t trade bait for another established superstar.

Asked if he has All-Star visions, Barrett said, “I strive for that every year, of course. That’s the player I want to be every year.’’

Barrett made his jump in 3-point shooting percentage — mostly on catch-and-shoot 3s — and free-throw percentage. As much as he is considered a penetrator, Barrett’s reliance on going left is an issue. Analytics show his finishing percentage at the rim isn’t top notch. But the Toronto native said he feels things may open up for him with the new additions.

Barrett
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“I think it’s great,’’ Barrett said. “We have a team with a lot of weapons. That’s good, that’s what you need. Every night will be someone contributing in a different way.

“I actually saw something on Twitter: RJ Barrett going into the lane this year,’’ Barrett said. “And there’s somebody else by themselves, wide open. That’s how it’s going to be this year. There’ll be attention on other people. All of us can make a play. I’m looking forward to that opportunity.’’

Barrett lifted his 3-point shooting percentage from 32 percent as a rookie to 41.2 percent. His numbers from the foul line improved too — from 61.4 percent to 74.6 percent.

After the Olympic qualifier, Barrett spent a lot of time in Toronto.

“I worked on shooting — working on 3s and certain shots that I need to be able to hit,’’ Barrett said. “Just being able to recreate what I did last year.

“I’ve gotten better, the team’s gotten better. So no matter what anyone thinks, just work together.’’

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau made a point Friday to say Barrett is only 21 and averaged 18 points (actually 17.6) on a playoff team.

Knicks
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

However, in the postseason, when defenses tighten, Barrett didn’t step up, shooting 8 of 28 from 3-point land with his scoring average dipping to 14 points.

“My goals are always the same,’’ Barrett said. “It’s always keep improving. Just like last year — improve all my weaknesses so that I can help out the team and put us in position to win.’’

Canada fell short of the Olympics, losing in the last match to Czech Republic in overtime. Barrett scored 23 points but missed a key free throw and two late field-goal attempts. Still, Barrett got to work with Raptors head coach Nick Nurse.

“It was fun,’’ Barrett said. “It’s always great to represent your country with guys who really come from the same place as you. You can relate to that. Competing with Canada across your chest is a great feeling.”

Will Barrett ever wear “Eastern Conference” across his chest during All-Star Weekend?

One NBA scout said he feels touting Barrett as a future All-Star is a stretch. Such expectations make Barrett “a victim of where he’s drafted. All-Star might be unreasonable but I think he’s a good player,’’ the scout said.

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