Why Raptors star has to return now or miss out on a significant honor

Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, Toronto Raptors
Scottie Barnes, Precious Achiuwa, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, Toronto Raptors / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

There have been a number of storylines in the NBA this season, many of them spectacular and displaying the incredible talent in the NBA. One of those storylines was the infusion of youth in the All-Star Game, as players like Anthony Edwards, Paolo Banchero and Scottie Barnes made the team.

A storyline that has not be as spectacular but also involves the Toronto Raptors' rising star is the NBA's new rule regarding end of season awards. To qualify for most of the major awards -- including MVP. All-NBA and All-Defense -- a player has to play in at least 65 games (with games requiring a minimum amount of minutes played).

This new rule sparked a lot of conversation when it was first announced last summer as a part of the league and the NBA Player's Union ratifying a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). That conversation has continued into the regular season and picked up in volume and intensity as star players began falling short of the mark.

Joel Embiid, Trae Young, Donovan Mitchell, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Lauri Markkanen are all ineligible to make an All-NBA Team because they will fail to reach 65 games this year. Draymond Green is ineligible for an All-Defense Team. The ability for a voter to weigh whether a player's performance in 60 games was greater than a lesser player's in 66 has been stripped away.

That number will matter a lot for the Toronto Raptors' best player.

Scottie Barnes will fall short of the mark

Scottie Barnes made his first All-Star Game this season and played even better after his selection, leading up to his fractured hand on March 1st. Part of the value he brought to the Raptors was his health, as he didn't miss an entire game all season until that point. He balled out in 60 straight games to start the year.

That means Barnes would need to appear in five more games this season to qualify for end of season awards. The problem, of course, if that there are only five games remaining in the Toronto Raptors' season.

That timetable was possible, if unlikely, from the moment that Barnes fractured his hand and it was announced that he would be undergoing surgery. The average recovery time for that type of injury would have placed him back with two games to go; it would therefore not be out of the question for him to beat that return timeline by three games.

As the Raptors have continued to lose, however, going just 2-15 without him, any logic to bringing him back before the end of the season disappeared. This is a team playing only for lottery balls at this point, and allowing Barnes' hand to fully heal and his body to rest made the most organizational sense.

Would Barnes have been in line to win any awards if he had been able to come back? While Barnes certainly took a step forward it's unlikely he would have topped the list for Most Improved Player, and similarly although he is a strong defender he probably isn't in the Top 10 of All-Defense candidates.

The best path for Barnes to earn an end of season award was to land on one of the three All-NBA teams, a lofty task for a player on a losing team but certainly not out of the question. His averaged of 19.9 points, 8.2 rebounds and 6.1 assists are robust, but add in his 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks per game and they look even better.

Only four players this season hit Barnes' averages in points, rebounds and assists: Scottie, Giannis, Luka and the Joker. That's three of the top four MVP candidates plus Barnes. That certainly starts to build a case for acknowledgment.

When you add in the steals, blocks and 1.7 3-pointers per game, you get a statline that has never been reached in the history of the NBA. His combination of production in every area of the game, including the expansion of his shooting ability, makes him a uniquely impactful player and one who, while not yet in the Top 15 players in the league, certainly had a case for inclusion as a Third Team All-NBA player when you factor in injuries to other players.

In the end, however, Barnes will fall short. Next season, however, he will have a chance to repeat as an All-Star and make his first All-NBA team, potentially making himself millions of dollars in the process. The Raptors have an extremely bright foundation with which to build on moving forward.

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