In a year that has beaten Toronto Raptors fans down with plenty of depressing and sobering results amid constant trade rumors, the one beacon of hope has been the play of rising star forward Scottie Barnes. He's been everything the team could have hoped for this season.
Barnes is averaging 20.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game on the offensive side of the ball while chipping in 1.6 steals and 1.3 blocks per game on the defensive end. His two-way growth has given the Raptors a long-term building block for beyond this season.
Barnes helped drag the Raptors to a win against a bad Charlotte Hornets team that was missing most of their starting lineup after losing for the first three quarters. Even with the quality of the opponent taken into account, the Raptors have to be even more thrilled than usual after his 22-point, 17-rebound, seven-assist, three-block night.
Barnes became the first player in the NBA to hit all of those benchmarks in a game since Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021. For all of Darko Rajakovic's faults, he has helped Barnes become a player who is so productive on both ends that it would be a crime not to invite him to the All-Star Game.
Toronto Raptors' Scottie Barnes cements All-Star status with Giannis-like statline.
Barnes has really kicked things up a notch in the month of December, where he has scored at least 20 points in all but one game. Barnes is averaging 23.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 6.4 assists per game while shooting 58% from the field and 41% from 3-point range.
The eternal struggle the Raptors have found themselves in over the last few years has been trying to find ways to let Pascal Siakam play his best All-Star-level ball while creating a bath for Barnes to evolve into a star. Rajakovic seems to be getting better in that area as the year goes on.
While Barnes will need to overcome both the fact he plays in a smaller basketball market in Toronto and his team's poor record, he is paving a path to a level of statistical dominance as both a defender and scorer that will be next to impossible for most to ignore.
The Raptors currently have some of the worst spacing in the league, insist on playing a starting lineup that has some of the ugliest numbers in the league, and continue to lose winnable games. Despite all of that, Barnes continues to thrive in a way that has established him as a star in the making.