The Toronto Raptors wasted no time getting Scottie Barnes acclimated to the professional game, choosing to let the rookie get as many reps as possible before they open the season against Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards. For a player who came into the league a touch raw as a shooter, that’s a wise strategy to take.
Calling Barnes a raw player might’ve seemed like the right designation for the Florida State alum early in his career given his jump shot issues, he’s proven to be way ahead of the curve in almost all other areas on offense.
While he has power forward size, Nick Nurse let Barnes handle the ball and facilitate the offense like a point guard frequently in the preseason. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results were exceptional, as his feel for the game looked much more advanced than most players picked after just one year in college.
During the preseason, Barnes led the team with 28 assists and turned the ball over just nine times, including seven dimes in a turnover-free game against Washington to end that series of exhibitions. A rookie coming in, playing a completely new role against NBA competition, and still looking that impressive is exceedingly rare.
The Toronto Raptors should be thrilled with Scottie Barnes right now.
Barnes may have only averaged 9.8 points per game, but the fact that he led the team in assists and averaged just under five rebounds per game proved that he will impact this team in a multitude of ways over the course of this season.
Barnes is not going to be asked to score 20 points per game as a rookie, even with Pascal Siakam out for a large chunk of time. Where Barnes fits into the equation is as a distributor, interior finisher, and defensive switchblade.
Not only is Barnes consistently making reads and accurate passes that belie his age, but he’s doing it with showmanship and flair. This dime to Precious Achiuwa signifies the type of skills he has as a passer and his ability to pull off difficult plays without turning the ball over.
How did he do on defense? Well, he was matched up against the likes of Jayson Tatum and Bradley Beal. He pestered the former whenever he was on the floor, and he held the latter without a made shot from the field in the first half.
If we knew anything was going to translate from college, it would be the defense. If one could award a Defensive Player of the Year award for the preseason slate, he would be among the contenders.
The Scottie Barnes hype train is full steam ahead, and if the Raptors continue to build upon his preseason showing and utilize him in a similar way over the course of the season, he should firmly be in the Rookie of the Year conversation. If the Raptors start winning, he should be a lock for one of the top spots.