The Toronto Raptors are leaning into their youth movement this season, putting players like Scottie Barnes and Precious Achiuwa squarely in the spotlight. In fact, newly acquired veteran Goran Dragic is the only player on the team that is over 30 years old, making him the veteran mentor of the group.
During Toronto’s preseason exhibition series, which came to a close on Tuesday night in a close victory against the Washington Wizards, Barnes was one of the main attractions, as Raptors fans wanted to see just how far along the No. 4 pick was in his development. Needless to say, he was extremely impressive.
Barnes was able to lock down on defense against some of the best scorers in the East, make plays as a distributor, and show that his shooting is starting to slightly improve. Dragic had a front-row seat to the Barnes exhibition, and he came away from it overwhelmingly impressed with the No. 4 overall pick.
Dragic said that the combination of defensive skill and decision-making that Barnes has exhibited so far is “rare, especially for rookies” before adding that Scottie is “that guy.”
We agree, Goran. Getting a veteran to hype you up like this had to feel good for a young player like Barnes.
Goran Dragic thinks Toronto Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes will dominate.
In 26 minutes per game, Barnes averaged 9.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game, which was the highest mark on the team. His 1.2 steals and blocks per game further prove his defensive quality. However, the most impressive parts of his preseason don’t necessarily show up in the box score.
Barnes was matched up against elite offensive players like Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum in the last week of games. Tatum had some real headaches against Barnes, and the combination of the Florida State alum’s speed and length prevented Beal from making a shot from the field in the first half.
His passing was astonishing, as he showed both a tremendous feel for the game and the ability to end up on any number of highlight reels, as this dime to Achiuwa exemplifies. Dragic took not of that passing ability, calling it “rare” for a rookie to be able to set up other players like that.
Dragic has seen a thing or two in his days in the NBA, so getting that level of endorsement from a veteran has to mean something for Barnes. The only negative from his preseason was the lack of a 3-point shot. If he gets that going, Dragic and the Raptors could be witnesses to a truly jaw-dropping rookie season.