R.J. Barrett is turning his contract from "toxic" to bargain in Toronto

One of the newest Raptors has been proving the doubters wrong.
RJ Barrett, Jamal Murray
RJ Barrett, Jamal Murray / Dustin Bradford/GettyImages

When RJ Barrett was officially traded to the Toronto Raptors from the New York Knicks at the tail end of the 2023 calendar year, it marked a homecoming for the Toronto native. Born in The Six in June 2000, Barrett found his way back to his home town and country in his fifth professional season.

RJ's production with the Knicks was up and down, leading the front office to explore moving him. Having just turned 19 when he was drafted, it could be expected for Barrett to go through some struggles, but patience is always the key with young players.

When he was officially shipped out of New York, the conversations surrounding RJ were certainly a bit unfair. According to ESPN Senior Writer Zach Lowe, Barrett was referred to as a "toxic asset" by certain front office people and coaches after being sent to the Raptors.

NBA executives saw RJ Barrett's contract as a "toxic asset"

It is clear that the pessimism regarding RJ had gotten out of hand, especially considering his overall level of play since the trade. He has been proving those same naysayers wrong in a big way since returning to Toronto.

In 27 games as a Raptor, Barrett is averaging career-highs in points, assists and rebounds per game on career-best shooting splits from three-point range and the floor as a whole. On January 7, in just his fourth game with his new team, RJ put up the third-best scoring night of his career and his most points since 2022 with 37 in a win against the Warriors.

He is currently averaging 22 points on 55% shooting in the month of March, and his contract value has improved massively in the last two and a half months. Barrett is currently playing in year one of a four-year, $107 million contract. Three months ago that may have looked like a burden, but now it is looking like a borderline bargain given his improved play.

Once again, situation is such a massive determining factor for success in the NBA. RJ clearly needed a change of scenery, and now his game is truly blossoming playing in his hometown.

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