Injury expert gives Raptors grim outlook on Scottie Barnes' injury return

Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors and Obi Toppin, Indiana Pacers
Scottie Barnes, Toronto Raptors and Obi Toppin, Indiana Pacers / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors have undergone a number of transformations this season, first adjusting to the loss of Fred VanVleet over the offseason, putting the keys in the hands of third-year point forward Scottie Barnes. Then OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam were traded, further reconfiguring the rotation and putting the ball in Barnes' hands.

After coming out of the All-Star Break with a trio of strong showings, finally earning that pizza party that head coach Darko Rajaković promised early in the season, the path ahead this season was coming together. Give Scottie Barnes the ball and let the Raptors' All-Star take another step forward, using the final two dozen games of the season to gain valuable experience and potentially even catch the Atlanta Hawks or Chicago Bulls for a spot in the Play-In Tournament.

That plan came crashing to the ground on Friday night, when the Raptors were hosting the Golden State Warriors. Barnes went up to contest a Jonathan Kuminga layup attempt in the second quarter, and his left hand swung to the side and appeared to connect with Immanuel Quickley's foot.

Barnes was clearly in pain immediately, committing a take foul to stop the play and check out of the game. He went to the locker room and did not return, and the team announced soon after the game that he had suffered a broken third metacarpal bone in his left hand.

Scottie Barnes will miss time with a fractured hand

The Raptors immediately said that Barnes will be out indefinitely, a sobering sign that they anticipate this being a long-term injury. Yet that still paints a lot of mystery onto the situation, and fans are left wondering how long Barnes is expected to be out.

One of the people to turn to is Jeff Stotts, a sports medicine expert and certified athletic trainer who often provides a medical perspective on athletic injuries, especially those in the NBA. He weighed in soon after the news came out providing details on the prognosis for Barnes.

He first provided necessary context, that further evaluation would be required to determine the exact timetable; the nature of the break and how the Raptors and Barnes decide to treat it will have a major effect on the path forward. With that being said, he provided some rough timetables based on average games missed for other players with a similar injury.

If Barnes' fracture does not require surgery, he can expect to miss an average of 31 days and around 12 games. If the fracture does require surgery, that timetable balloons to 41 days and 18 games. Wendell Carter Jr. of the Orlando Magic fractured his third metacarpal near the beginning of the season and missed 47 days and 20 games.

What does that mean for Barnes and the Raptors?

The Raptors have just 44 days and 22 games remaining in the regular season. If Barnes' fracture requires surgery, an average recovery would see him return in time for just the last two games of the season, a pair of road contests with the Miami Heat.

The more optimistic outlook is if his hand doesn't require surgery, but even that path would see him out until around April 3rd, giving him perhaps seven games left in the regular season.

Either timeline almost certainly eliminates' the Raptors' hopes of pushing up into the Play-In Tournament. It's possible that Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett and Gary Trent Jr. all take a step up the pecking order and Toronto makes a run at 10th-place, but Barnes was by far this team's best player and his loss will be meaningful.

The Raptors are currently in 12th place in the Eastern Conference at 22-38, 4.5 games back of the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta may be playing without its All-Star too, as Trae Young is expected to miss at least four weeks, but 4.5 games is a huge gulf to make up. For all intents and purposes, Toronto's season is over.

This stretch run was supposed to be an opportunity for the Raptors to build chemistry among its new young core. It was supposed to be a chance for Barnes to take another step up toward being a true star in the NBA. It was supposed to be a chance to make this season mean something more than simply being the season when the Raptors traded their stars.

Instead Scottie Barnes will spend the next month or more on the sidelines, with his hand wrapped and his development delayed. And Toronto's goals shift from making the Play-In to trying to lose enough to "catch" the Memphis Grizzlies in the draft order and increase their odds of keeping the Top-6 protected 2024 first-round pick the Raptors owe the San Antonio Spurs from the Jakob Poeltl; they are currently in seventh.

Hopefully, whatever path forward the team and Barnes take will maximize the long-term healing of his hand. There's always next year.

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