ROTY: Scottie Barnes
As much as we all love Dalano Banton, Barnes’ exploits may make him the Rookie of the Year across the entire NBA. Let’s just quickly go over what makes Barnes not just the best rookie on the team, but arguably the best rookie the Raptors have ever had.
He’s averaging 15 points, eight rebounds, and three assists per game while shooting 50% from the field. Nice. He’s a defensive Swiss army knife in the Shawn Marion mold that is already being trusted to guard some of the best opposing players. No. 4 has done all of this while improving his collegiate flaws.
Toronto Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes is getting better.
Barnes has already improved as a jump shooter by taking his patented pull-up elbow jumper and starting to expand to a tentative 3-point range. His fire and infectious energy bring a soul and personality to a Raptors team that was sorely needed.
Barnes exists as he is within a system where he’s deferring to Pascal Siakam and doesn’t have a defensive-minded big to protect the rim. They never pass him the ball on the roll, and his effectiveness at his usage rate is amazing. Things are only going to get better from here.
6MOTY: Khem Birch
It’s not cool, it’s not sexy, it doesn’t put up big numbers or highlights, but when Khem Birch plays, the Raptors are a much better team. A strong 6-9 with timing around the rim and an old-school interior game, Birch’s style doesn’t have the speed or intrigue of the younger Precious Achiuwa, but it’s much more reliable.
When Birch comes off the bench, Toronto plays some of their best defensive basketball. No disrespect to Achiuwa, as he’ll likely be a better player than Birch in a few years, but not today. In the present, Birch setting high screens, rolling to the rim, hitting that little floater, and crashing the boards is working perfectly fine.
It’s not flashy, but it works. It fits this team and makes it better. What else can you ask for?