The Toronto Raptors have selected Florida State freshman Scottie Barnes, a 6-8 forward, in the 2021 NBA Draft’s first round, so the surprise of many. Barnes leapfrogged point guard prospect Jalen Suggs on the Raptors draft board and got selected right after Cleveland drafted center Evan Mobley.
What Barnes offers the Raptors is the prototypical positionless player with a myriad of skills, energy, and versatility at both ends of the court. Barnes, if developed well, gives management visions of a player who could play in the post but also defend a point guard at the drop of a hat.
It’s the main reason he was selected over Suggs, a highly-touted point guard from Gonzaga. With two solid guards already on the roster in Fred VanVleet and last year’s pick Malachi Flynn, the fourth pick this year needed to address other roster flaws.
The selection stunned plenty of Raptors fans, as many expected Suggs to put on a Raptors’ cap at the 2021 NBA Draft. Suggs apparently thought he’d be a Raptor as well.
The man who slipped to fifth overall may have Toronto on a hit list of four teams who passed on his talents when he recently stated:
"“I will say the ones that do pass up on me and take another prospect, you know, it’ll come back, it’d be to their detriment,” Suggs said Tuesday. “You can look at my track record and what I’ve done and where I’ve been, you know, it’s always win at a high level, at the highest level.”"
Only the future can tell whether Suggs is right or Raptors’ management made the correct choice. If you’re a Barnes supporter, you’re likely inclined to believe he is a glimpse at the future of basketball, where the lines between positions blur and 6-9 players routinely pull off guard-like moves.
Scottie Barnes is what the future of the Toronto Raptors looks like.
Barnes was a freshman playing point guard for Florida State this season. At first look, especially when looking at his physique and style of play, Barnes reminds you of OG Anunoby, who Masai Ujiri selected in 2017 at No. 23 overall. Barnes, like Anunoby, is 6-8 and weighs about ten pounds less at 225.
According to Barnes, his workout for the Raptors was fine, but the Raptors obviously saw more in him than just “fine”. Barnes felt like the Raptors would be a perfect place for him.
"“I bring energy, I bring a defensive mindset, I bring a winning culture of basketball, I bring my playmaking ability,” he said. “I bring all these different things, the little things that help teams be able to win games.”"
Barnes will need to work on his long-range shooting in the NBA, as he was only 27.5% from deep in his lone collegiate year. It could be a make-or-break career flaw if he can’t find a consistent shooting stroke.
However, he is athletic, a good playmaker runs the floor well, a tremendous defender, and a plus ball-handler. Barnes played in 24 games this season and averaged 10.3 points, 4.1 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. He brings plenty of valuable skills which the Raptors can depend on for years.
What does Scottie Barnes mean for the Toronto Raptors’ lineup?
In an era of small ball, with versatile, quick defenders the priority, head coach Nick Nurse could employ Anunoby at shooting guard and Barnes at the small forward with Pascal Siakam at the power forward spot in certain situations.
Switching everything has been a trademark of Nurse’s defensive schemes since he became the head coach to start the 2018-19 season. Barnes could be instrumental with regards to how Toronto attacks teams. If he can learn to knock down the three he is another high motor highly athletic wing the Raptors organization really like.
This is the way basketball is moving. Boxing in players to positions is becoming pointless when the Bucks were letting 6-5 PJ Tucker play power forward while 6-11 Giannis Antetokounmpo handled the ball at the top of the key.
Barnes might be built like a power forward, but he can line up anywhere on defense for an extended period of time. On offense, his ball-handling and passing should allow him to get point guard reps despite his height. Failing to adapt to these trends could be lethal, and Toronto realized that by picking Barnes over Suggs.
Gary Trent Jr. is back, as is president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri. The next weeks will be hectic for the Raptors organization, but Barnes still offers a glimpse of where that future is headed.