The Toronto Raptors knew they were going out on a bit of a limb when they made Scottie Barnes the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and Dalano Banton their second-round draft choice. Taking these players showed a commitment to Masai Ujiri’s preferred style of basketball and emphasis on player development.
Barnes immediately validated Toronto’s decision to select him over Jalen Suggs. With 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game in addition to some quality on-ball defensive reps, Barnes was able to take home Rookie of the Year and All-NBA Rookie Team honors.
It’s one thing for Barnes to have established himself as a quality forward in his rookie season, but the fact that Nick Nurse tasked him with guarding centers and handling backup point guard duties shows the trust this organization has in him. Giving him a grade of anything less than a straight-A would be a mistake.
Barnes smashed all expectations as a rookie, but he is not a perfect prospect just yet. There are a few issues from his rookie year that need correcting. If he patches them up, look for Barnes to become a potential All-Star in reasonably short order.
Scottie Barnes set the Toronto Raptors up for success.
Barnes needs to work on being more aggressive on the offensive end during his sophomore season. While he played a vital role as a connector and rebounder with the Raptors last year, they didn’t take him No. 4 overall to have him perpetually come in fifth on the team in scoring.
Fixing his jump shot should be a gateway to a more proficient scoring season. While Barnes’ shooting is much better than it was at college, making just 30% of the 3-pointers he attempted on 2.6 tries per game is not the production you want to see down the line. That enhanced scoring can come at the cost of production from other starters.
Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby are fantastic players in their own right, but they might not hit their 2021-22 scoring averages next year if Barnes takes the leap reward we think he will. With an All-Star point guard in Fred VanVleet, an All-NBA forward in Pascal Siakam, and the emerging Barnes, that three-headed monster could guide Toronto in the playoffs.
Scottie went from a complete question mark to one of the most mercurial talents we have seen enter the league in the last few seasons. With his surprisingly impressive offense and quality defense already helping him reel in some NBA hardware, Toronto should feel comfortable handing him the keys to the car in the near future.