The complicated sophomore season of Scottie Barnes: Is he helping the Raptors?

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 14: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 14: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors, Scottie Barnes
TORONTO, ON – NOVEMBER 28: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

Masai Ujiri’s primary objective is to win games, so it doesn’t matter if you’re a 20-year-old elite prospect. If you’re not ready to lift the team to its maximum potential, then you’re not going to get a minute or a touch more than you deserve.

Barnes has proven his worth and earned max minutes, but that doesn’t mean Masai Ujiri or Nick Nurse are going to tailor the team’s system toward him yet. Barnes is still behind Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby in the offensive pecking order. As of this moment, these three can help win more games than Barnes.

It’s rare to see a reigning rookie of the year have to “fit in” to this degree. Think about fellow draft classmates Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green, two stellar talents who have been given the keys to their team’s offense. In the case of Barnes, he doesn’t have first or even second dibs on any of that.

The Toronto Raptors’ system doesn’t feature Scottie Barnes.

The Raptors altered their usage of Barnes from last year to this. Previously, the ball was more evenly shared between Siakam and VanVleet, with Gary Trent Jr. and OG on the wings, and Barnes playing the dunker spot. This meant Scottie got a lot more of his points set up for him around the rim rather than having to create for himself.

This season the system was tweaked. With Pascal taking a leap as an iso-scorer, VanVleet deferred more of his on-ball responsibilities to Pascal and used his talents as a shooter to space the floor for the rest of the Raptors to attack the rim.

While it isn’t where it needs to be yet, Scottie has taken strides as a shooter this yea.r With this in mind, Barnes was placed more on the perimeter and spotting up from range rather than around the basket.

Then the Siakam injury happened, and Barnes was placed more on-ball. While his passing and skills finishing inside make on-ball creation the ultimate destination for Barnes’ game, he’s not yet at the stage where he can be a reliable primary for a good NBA team.

When he gets his turn to play primary as an on-ball creator, it’s often with the bench unit when Siakam and VanVleet are resting. Let’s remember that the Raptors’ bench can’t space the floor to save their life. Chris Boucher has been a brick from three thus far, and Otto Porter Jr. has been injured.

Thad Young’s game is pretty much inside the arc, and rookie Christian Koloko can’t make anything that isn’t an alley-oop or a free throw. That leaves trade bait Juancho Hernangomez as the best spacer for the Barnes minutes.

A player like Scottie, someone who’s best used as the engine of an offense, is trying to generate points for a clogged artery of a bench offense. Of course he hasn’t seen an upswing in points per game.