Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) drives against New...

Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) drives against New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) in overtime of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023, at Madison Square Garden. Credit: AP/Mary Altaffer

Is RJ Barrett defensively deficient? The data points say yes.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau wonders just how valid those metrics are.

“Quite honestly, I look at some of those numbers and they’re meaningless to me,” Thibodeau said before the Knicks beat the 76ers, 108-97, at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night. “I haven’t seen a good ratings system yet defensively, and I think I’ve studied it pretty hard for a long time.”

Defensive rating determines how many points a team and/or an individual player allows over 100 possessions.

Entering Sunday, the Knicks were tied for 12th with a defensive rating of 113.7. Barrett had a defensive rating of 116.6, which ranked eighth on the team and 235th overall.

According to data culled by NBA.com, opponents are shooting 44.1% overall against Barrett this season.

Furthermore, the numbers show opponents are shooting 51.3% from inside the arc against him, including 57.5% from six feet and closer and 55.5% from 10 feet and in.

However, Barrett is limiting opponents to 35.6% shooting from 15 feet and out and 33.3% from beyond the arc.

To summarize: Barrett’s matchups shoot better the closer they are to the basket. Which is logical.

So the questions then becomes this: Is Barrett suboptimal defensively or is the mathematical methodology flawed?

“I don’t buy into it the way some people treat it as gospel,” Thibodeau said. “You ask them what does it mean and they can’t explain it.”

Barrett did not play against the 76ers on Sunday. Moments before tipoff, the team announced he was doubtful with an “illness.” He was replaced in the starting lineup by Immanuel Quickley.

Barrett, who had started 48 of the Knicks’ 54 games before Sunday, is averaging 20.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists this season.

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