Masai Ujiri defends Scottie Barnes, wants improvement in summer

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 05: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 05: Scottie Barnes #4 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Brian Fluharty/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors had to be just a bit frustrated with the development of Scottie Barnes. While he made leaps forward as a playmaker, the fact that his scoring average was identical to his rookie season and his efficiency went down had to be a very disheartening sign.

The firing of Nick Nurse signals that Masai Ujiri believes his core is good enough to win now. One of the main points Ujiri harped on in his media availability following the Nurse firing was the notion that the lack of development from Toronto’s young players really irritated him.

Ujiri is well aware that development is not linear, even defending Scottie by saying that he was being “pulled in different directions” as a 21-year-old phenom. Ujiri, who hinted at some change around the team, knows that this is tough, but he is also aware of the fact that much of Toronto’s future success hinges on him.

Ujiri did mention that this is going to be a “different” summer for Barnes, and it doesn’t take an expert tea leaf reader to see that the Raptors are going to ensure that Barnes works as hard as possible during the summer. This could be the difference between success and failure for him.

Will Scottie Barnes take a step forward for the Toronto Raptors?

Barnes had some hardships this season. On top of the fact that he had a few nagging injuries at the beginning and end of the campaigns, he often went into games while being regarded as the fifth offensive scoring option. No wonder his scoring didn’t take off.

With Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. both likely to test the open market and OG Anunoby still on the fringes of the trade market, it would not be the least bit surprising if the Raptors decide to part with one of those names and turn a greater deal of responsibility over to Barnes.

His career-high in points against the Lakers showed what he can do when VanVleet and Pascal Siakam aren’t dominating the ball. Fixing his 3-point shot might be the best way he can get on track, as Barnes had the second-worst percentage in the league on wide-open triples.

Barnes’ developmental oath has helped him become a unique playmaker with solid finishing skills and versatility to be proud of. Now he needs to make the jump to a high-end scorer, and it remains to be seen if he has the talent and drive to make good on that.

Next. 10 replacements for Nick Nurse as Raptors coach. dark