The 2019 NBA Draft came with high expectations for the New York Knicks, as they owned the third overall pick and had a chance to add a potential future All-Star to their locker room. RJ Barrett was the Knicks' selection and while he has been undeniably productive for them through his first four seasons, he has yet to really step forward and become a star next to the likes of Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson.

As he prepares for his fifth NBA season, Barrett has a chance to prove that he has what it takes to live up to the expectations that were placed upon his shoulders as a rookie. What many tend to forget is that the former top pick is still just 23 years old. With the experiences he already has and the faith his organization instilled in him with a four-year, $107 million extension last summer, Barrett may very well be ready to have his best season yet.

Overall, Barrett put together a really solid 2022-23 campaign for the Knicks. He played in a total of 73 games, the fourth-most out of anyone on the team, and he averaged 19.6 points per game while shooting 43.4 percent from the floor. He's continued to grow as a rebounder and while his three-point shooting numbers are not great, Barrett has shown the ability to play aggressive by getting to the rim. These skills were put on display against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Knicks' first-round playoff series and he was even better against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

One of the keys to Barrett finding success with the Knicks has been his ability to run in transition, especially when either Brunson or Randle are off the floor. He's athletic and runs the floor as well as any other swingman in the league, which is why this is where Barrett has done the most damage on the offensive-end of the floor.

Becoming a more polished playmaker and exhibiting more confidence with the ball in his hands will aid him in becoming the star many believe he can still be. This is why Barrett has taken advantage of the offseason, representing Canada in the FIBA World Cup that is set to begin later this month.

Barrett has been a standout for Team Canada thus far in their “tune up games” and he recently recorded 31 points to carry his team to an overtime win over Germany in the DBB SuperCup tournament. Canada had to come from behind to win this game and the Knicks' youngster recorded 11 of his team's final 17 points to propel them to a victory. Perhaps the most impressive part of this performance for Barrett was his confidence, as he shot 13-for-14 from the floor and 4 of 4 from three-point range, with one of his made shots tying the game at the end of regulation.

“It felt good,” Barrett said after the game, via Canada Basketball's official website. “Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander], Kelly [Olynyk] and the guys are out there making it easy for me to do my thing, but it’s been a lot of fun.”

This was Team Canada's second game in as many days, as Barrett recorded 11 points on 4 of 8 shooting in 18 total minutes against New Zealand on August 12.

“Overall, he was outstanding. Very efficient offensively,” Canada's head coach and Sacramento Kings assistant coach Jordi Fernández said of Barrett. “He’s been very clean with his decision-making, running the floor and attacking the paint, so this is exactly what we needed from him. This is exactly the production we want.”

The biggest difference in Barrett's play right now compared to in the past- and even at the end of the 2022-23 regular season- is his decision-making and efficiency. Any young player that enters the NBA always has a learning curve, no matter how good they are. This has been true for first overall picks through the years, and it is very true for Barrett, especially given the situation he was put in with the Knicks.

The fact that Barrett looks more confident and is letting the game come to him instead of trying to force the action is one of the biggest reasons why he could wind up having a great impact with the Knicks during the 2023-24 season.

With Randle and Brunson on the team, he may never be able to truly turn into a No. 1 option for the Knicks and one of the faces of the league, but he can absolutely thrive in his role and become a borderline All-Star type of talent, which is New York's ultimate hope.

A player like Jaylen Brown is a terrific example of who Barrett should strive to be heading into his fifth season. Brown was an athletic and lengthy swingman when he first came into the league, and he did not take that next step in his career and become an All-Star until his fifth year with the Celtics. Now, he is a two-time All-Star, an All-NBA performer and recently signed a five-year, $304 million extension, the largest in NBA history.

Obviously, they are not the same player, but Barrett is a very athletic talent who can make a difference on both ends of the court if he's fully locked in. Taking that next step and becoming a consistent focal point for the Knicks is essential not only for his long-term career, but for the Knicks' immediate future as well.

This organization has now made the playoffs in two of the last three seasons and they recently won their first playoff series since 2013. The Knicks are looking to prove that this was no fluke and that they are legitimate title threats in what has become a very wide-open Eastern Conference.

When you look at each championship team through the years, they all had at least three big names step up and lead their team to a title. The Denver Nuggets had Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon in 2023. The Golden State Warriors had Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson in 2022. The Milwaukee Bucks had Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday in 2021. You can go on and on down the list of champions and you will find a similar trend.

Right now, the Knicks have Randle and they have Brunson, but they are still searching for that key No. 3 guy that can elevate this entire franchise. RJ Barrett can be- and needs to be- this player for the Knicks. Gaining valuable experience with Team Canada this offseason and continuing to work on his craft, Barrett is in line to have his best NBA season yet.