The Toronto Raptors are doubling down in their support of Scottie Barnes, as they are of the belief that he is just a few improvements in his game away from becoming an All-Star player who can lead a new era of success and consistency under Darko Rajakovic.
It goes without saying that Barnes’ 3-point shooting will be under a microscope this season. A poor shooter in college, Barnes has made just 29% of his triples in the last two seasons. He regressed in that area last season, which is one of the main reasons Rajakovic was hired.
Perhaps no Raptor played a more significant role in the team’s 4-0 preseason start than Barnes, as the combination of better shooting mechanics and a newly revamped frame that is even more lean and muscular seemed to work wonders. Rajakovic put out a warning to anyone who dares to challenge Barnes.
“If you’re closing out on Scottie Barnes, like, God help you,” Rajakovic said, via Aaron Rose of Sports Illustrated. “You’re dealing with him going downhill and finishing at the rim or connecting with his teammates. And that’s going to really help his game, and it’s going to really help our game.”
Darko Rajakovic warns Toronto Raptors foes about Scottie Barnes.
Barnes averaged 18.5 points per game in the preseason, making 63% of his shots overall and seven of his 14 3-point attempts. Among those who played in all four preseason games, Barnes was at the top in rebounds per game and third in assists per game.
Rajakovic’s new offense is much easier to build confidence in than whatever Nick Nurse was trying to do last season. Gone are the stagnant half-court sets with no spacing whatsoever, and in are the high-octane sets with tons of ball movement and creativity.
The new-look Barnes will be properly unveiled in the Raptors’ October 25 opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves, foot injury be damned. In a year where Toronto can’t afford too many slip-ups, this is certainly an encouraging development.
While Barnes will need to figure out how to be effective while also getting Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby the touches they need to be effective, one of the best young passers in the game shouldn’t have too many issues being effective there. If Rajakovic’s prediction comes true, Barnes could be in for a hell of a 2023 season.