Toronto Raptors fans and sports pundits were generally gobsmacked by the team’s pick of Florida State’s Scottie Barnes with the No. 4 Pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs had been the betting favorite for weeks, but the Raptors decided to shockingly go in a different direction.
Suggs is strong both offensively and defensively. A multi-talented athlete, he also played high-level football as a quarterback and a defensive back at Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, where he lead the school to a state championship.
So why did Raptors GM Bobby Webster and Masai Ujiri, choose a player who might need more developmental attention in Barnes over Suggs, who was quickly selected by the Orlando Magic as the No. 5 overall pick.
As with much of what the Raptors management does, there is as much going on off the court as there is on it.
Scottie Barnes should fit in well with the Toronto Raptors.
At 6-8 and a 7-3 inch wingspan, Barnes has been one of the most hyped prospects in. He was named ACC All-Freshman, ACC Sixth Man of the Year, and ACC Freshman of the Year.
Barnes and Suggs shared a 50% shooting percentage, and while Suggs made 34% of his 3-pointers, Barnes connected on just 28%. If the Raptors wanted someone who could come right in and score points, it makes sense as to why Suggs looked like the favorite.
Why the Raptors management picked Barnes seems to inherently reflect the core beliefs of the organization, strategies that are centered not just on the team, but also on the players as singular units.
Barnes wears his heart on his sleeve, which could very well be the rallying motto for this Toronto team, whose indomitable spirit, most notably in the fourth quarter, is second to none.
A prolific playmaker and selfless team player, Barnes has a strong feel for the game. The big concern, however, is that he is a non-performer on the perimeter, garnering success only 11 times out of 40 from the three-point while achieving 62% from the free throw.
The x-factor that gives credence to this draft pick, however, centers around the organization’s commitment to player development- a proven change agent that has ordinary performers evolving into elite players.
Cases in point – OG Anunoby and Norm Powell- who have both become both dependable and successful performers at the net.
“[Barnes] is internally motivated to grow and internally motivated to get better,” Webster said in a Yahoo Sports Canada interview. “He is really gifted – he is big and strong; long and athletic. He always had a sense for playmaking and [being able] to handle the ball.”
And while Barnes’ promise is seen as a long-term rollout over the next two to five years, it also feels like it is as much about senior management’s belief in their gut feel as it is about popular opinion.
In 2019, Ujiri proved that he had a vision, one that he actualized by bringing the Larry O’Brien home to Toronto. He obviously sees what Barnes can contribute and from there, it is up to Bobby Webster and Nick Nurse to make sure that vision happens.