The Toronto Raptors have to consider themselves one extremely lucky franchise. They went from taking a bit of a gamble on Scottie Barmes to reaping the rewards and accolades that come with drafting a Rookie of the Year performer. Barnes is now the centerpiece of Toronto’s future.
Barnes not only won Rookie of the Year, but he did it in style for a playoff team. Averaging 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game as a 20-year-old puts him in a completely different category when compared to the rest of the standout youngsters in the NBA.
The Raptors are not going to wait for Barnes to keep growing out of an abundance of patience within the next two seasons. Toronto has a very clear window opening up, and it’s incumbent on Barnes to make the necessary adjustments to take that enticing next step forward.
Barnes making All-NBA next year or the year after that will certainly be surprising, but he was picked as high as he was with the expectations that he could end up with some special accolades in the right situation. He still needs to make these improvements before he can be trusted to be an elite NBA presence.
Toronto Raptors: 3 improvements Scottie Barnes must make.
3. Defensive awareness
The Raptors gave Barnes a crash course in one of the sport’s most unusual and complex defensive schemes. While this will help him get a quick education that will serve him well down the line, it made the standout defender look a bit puzzled at times during the season.
Such lapses were to be expected for a rookie, but that didn’t make them any less impactful on the game. With the physical traits that Masai Ujiri covets from a defender and some success on-ball last year, some enhanced familiarity with the system should produce better off-ball results.
The Toronto Raptors are counting on better D from Scottie Barnes.
Being called a “positionless” defender has often been misapplied in the last few years, but Barnes is one of a handful of players with the athleticism to fulfill that role. Toronto is going to be less willing to put up with growing pains now that they are an established contending team.
Someone like OG Anunoby, or even a Draymond Green type if Barnes really hits his stride, could be a good role model to follow in terms of becoming an impact defender. Defending James Harden and Joel Embiid in the same game is a tall order, but Toronto wouldn’t have taken Barnes if they didn’t think he could do it.