The Toronto Raptors are currently leaking coolant, as one of the few reasons to actually watch this team and take them seriously is the continued improvement of sensational third-year forward Scottie Barnes. He is the sole source of optimism for this Raptors season.
Barnes should be in the running for an invitation to the 2024 NBA All-Star Game in Indianapolis, as his ability to be a triple-double threat basically every night while often helping carry a bad team should be enough for the rest of the league to realize what a rare talent Toronto has.
If Barnes makes it, he extend Toronto's streak of consecutive seasons with an All-Star to three following Pascal Siakam last year and Fred VanVleet before that. Barnes is not only viewed as an All-Star by some, but names like ESPN's Kevin Pelton have Barnes listed as a starter alongside Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Tyrese Haliburton, and Tyrese Maxey.
Jayson Tatum is averaging 27 points per game on what many consider to be the best team in the league, and he wasn't good enough to overtake Barnes. Damian Lillard also finds himself among the reserves alongside Jimmy Butler. The Barnes effect is starting to take over the NBA.
ESPN tabs Toronto Raptors' Scottie Barnes as All-Star Game Starter.
Barnes's election is by no means without merit. He is averaging 19.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game this season, all of which are career-best marks. For all the struggles Rajakovic's offense has had, this attack has made Barnes much better.
The improvement he's made under Darko Rajakovic has been noticeable. His 3-point shooting went from a major liability to one of the primary sources of offense for Toronto. On defense, his 1.7 steals and 1.2 blocks per game show tangible proof of an asencion in that area.
Barnes has two major challenges staring him down that he will need to overcome if he wants to make it to Indianapolis. On top of the fact the presence of Pascal Siakam often makes it difficult for him to him tto put up gaudy scoring days, Barnes will need to convince voters of his quality despite Toronto's poor overall record.
Barnes might not be amassing 30-point games every night, but he is still working his way towards a season that has some of the brightest around the league fully squared in on what is happening in Toronto. An All-Star starting nod would be confirmation of his elite status within the league.