The Toronto Raptors may have shocked some with their selection of Scottie Barnes with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, but he has quickly become a beloved figure around this team due to his infectious personality and potential to become a quality defender immediately.
While Barnes is a bit raw on the offensive end, everything else about his profile as a player suggests that he is going to be a force in the pros. Toronto is in need of one or a handful of players to make up for the loss of Kyle Lowry both on and off the court, and Barnes could go a long way toward rectifying that issue.
Barnes and the Raptors were in London for their annual open practice today, a practice that had a special meaning to the club this year, to show off their skills in an intrasquad scrimmage.
While fans in attendance had to be thrilled with the simple prospect of watching Raptors basketball again, Barnes was able to kick things up a notch by becoming the must-see attraction.
Barnes sprinted out onto the floor in introductions, hyping the crows up with his trademark beaming smile on his face. Naturally, the crowd erupted. If this is the type of personality the Raptors drafted, it’s easy to see why Masai Ujiri was smitten with him.
Toronto Raptors: Rookie Scottie Barnes made his presence felt.
The team brought out had a basket of t-shirts to throw into the crowd before the scrimmage. While most Raptors took one or two shirts, Barnes grabbed at minimum a half-dozen extra and starting heaving them into the stands.
If we know nothing else about Barnes, he’s an affable personality that has quickly assimilated into this locker room. Fans might question aspects of his game, but that bubbliness and energy are simply delightful.
Barnes wasn’t just last this practice to be a hype man. He was ready to show off the improvements he made in his game. Michael Grange of SportsNet was on the scene, and he reported that Barnes was creating shots for himself and knocking down jumpers, two things that pre-draft reports criticized him for lacking.
Footage from Toronto Raptors fans in attendance shows that Barnes is already comfortable handling the ball, and while this isn’t exactly a full-speed NBA game, it was nice to see Barnes start attacking the rim and throwing down a thunderous jam.
It’s hard to glean a ton from a scrimmage like this, so the best fans can hope for is that certain players dazzle those in attendance with some fireworks. Barnes may have given us a preview of what the next half-decade or longer could look like, and things are off to a fantastic start.
2021 might just be the year of Scottie Barnes if everything goes his way.