The first three quarters of Toronto Raptors star Scottie Barnes' performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder was nothing short of spectacular, as he was having a tremendous defensive game while also putting up 19 points. In the fourth quarter and overtime, the fun just stopped coming for all involved.
Barnes made just one of his final three shots in the fourth quarter and double-overtime, which Barnes played almost in their entirety. Toronto blew a 23-point lead and pulled up the rear with a tough road loss. Even with the quality of the opponent, the way this team lost is brutal for a squad that has now dropped 11 of 13 games.
Barnes' first few weeks as the main man in Toronto have been met with more positives than negatives, but the late-game struggles against OKC showed that he has one big flaw that is preventing him from fully taking that leap from "promising fringe All-Star" to "franchise cornerstone."
Scottie can be a bit too pass-happy, especially down the stretch of close games. He shouldn't stop passing, as that is part of what makes him such a great talent. However, Toronto needs to see him be a bit more assertive and willing to lead the charge in the fourth quarter. That mentality would do wonders for Barnes as a player.
Scottie Barnes must be more aggressive for the Toronto Raptors.
Barnes has a penchant for overcoming some lackluster statistical nights with awesome fourth-quarter scoring barrages. The Raptors need to see more of this, especially in a lost season where making sure Barnes improves is as important as however many wins the team tallies in the next few months.
Would it be unrealistic for the Raptors to mandate that Barnes takes a minimum number of shots in every single game? We know he's a versatile offensive player who is now a threat to score from basically everywhere on the court. Force-feeding him shots in the name of development via repetition might not be the worst idea anyone ever had.
In order to take the next step up the developmental ladder, doing it with high volume will need to become commonplace. Then comes scoring with volume while also leading the team to wins, the proverbial sweet spot teams like the Thunder find themselves in with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Barnes did grow up playing point guard, meaning the mentality of getting everyone else involved early is often at war with the role of a lead scorer. Rewriting that mindset might take some time, and some Raptors wins might skate away from them in the short term, but Barnes turning into what Pascal Siakam has been in the last few years would be a very welcome sight this year and the next.
Barnes is very good, and he will likely be an All-Star in his NBA career. He is also much better than Siakam, who eventually did make the leap everyone is eyeing for Barnes, was at this stage in his career. Barnes' floor is very high, but he can only touch the highest reaches of what his ceiling can be with a more dominant mindset.
Only through practice and continued improvement can he unlock this gateway.