2. More complete on defense
Barnes has always been a curious study on the defensive end. While he could be an Anunoby-esque switchblade who does everything, his reps as a perimeter defender and small-ball big man have been all over the map in the last two seasons. In 2023, however, the results are taking a turn for the better.
Barnes has averaged 2.1 blocks and 1.1 steals per game, the former number being one that he didn’t come close to reaching under Nurse. Rather than switching in a chaotic manner, Rajakovic is letting Barnes’ natural physical talents shine in a more traditional role.
Toronto Raptors star Scottie Barnes is improving on defense.
Barnes ranks eighth in the NBA in blocks per game this season, but he and Ausar Thompson are tied for the most blocks for any player 6-9 or shorter. Barnes being in such an elite class after just one year with Rajakovic and Pat Delany is a wonderful development.
Barnes went from a defensive negative to someone who was clearly piecing it together to a confirmed defensive dynamo who is using a new-look frame to wreak havoc against players like Wembanyama and Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s not Anunoby, but he could be on his way.