Success can come from opportune times and in the fast-paced nature of the NBA, chances must be taken before they slip away.
More than a few eyebrows were raised when Scottie Barnes was selected by the Toronto Raptors with the fourth pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. Expectations were that Gonzaga combo guard and NCAA Final Four star Jalen Suggs would be taken to create a new post-Kyle Lowry Raptors backcourt with Fred VanVleet.
A few games into the season, however, everyone has been impressed with Barnes’ instant impact.
The Florida native has currently been averaging 16.6 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 steals in 34.8 minutes, filling in for Pascal Siakam as he worked his way back from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Points, rebounds, and steals have been easy to come by for Barnes, but it’s how he earns those numbers and the other intangibles he possesses that have earned him the respect among fans, peers, and fantasy owners alike.
The 6-foot-7 forward can defend multiple positions thanks to his 7-foot-3 wingspan and can serve as another playmaker. His presence only adds to the layers of the Toronto offense, whether that means he is bringing down the ball or creating plays either off the dribble or in transition. Barnes, who turned 20 last August 1, isn’t afraid to battle it out with bigger and more seasoned veterans and Cleveland Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen got a first-hand taste of that during their November 5 matchup.
Barnes joins Patrick Williams, Devin Vassell, Trent Forest, Terance Mann, Jonathan Isaac, and Malik Beasley as recent Florida State Seminoles currently in the NBA. Like Barnes, Mann and Beasley have made the most of the opportunities that came their way, with the former leading the Los Angeles Clippers to the Western Conference Finals when Kawhi Leonard went down with a partially torn right ACL. Vassell, Williams, and Isaac have become key players on their respective squads, but the latter two are currently out due to injury.
With the return of Siakam, it remains to be seen how much playing time the FIBA U-19 World Cup gold medalist will have with the Raptors at full strength. In the 116-103 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, Barnes, who himself recently returned from a sprained right thumb that forced him to miss two games, played for 31 minutes and filled up the stat sheet with eight points, seven rebounds, four assists, and a game-high five steals. Siakam, who will likely begin his 2021-2022 season on a minutes restriction, had 15 points and two blocks in 25 minutes of game time.
There were moments in the game where Barnes was matched up with Kevin Durant and James Harden and while he had some growing pains early in the game, he later on made some disruptive plays on two of the best players in league history.
Siakam and Barnes did see some time on the court together and that certainly fits the bill of what Toronto head coach Nick Nurse would want to do defensively. Barnes is a capable help and individual defender. With VanVleet, Siakam, OG Anunoby, and a suddenly steal-savvy Gary Trent Jr., the Raptors have an athletic, switchy lineup that can wreak havoc against all comers. Currently, Toronto is ninth in the NBA in points allowed at 104.7 a game with a turnover percentage at 16.4 percent, good for second in the league.
NBA teams have barely even played 10 games into the season but both Barnes and Evan Mobley have already distanced themselves from their peers in the Rookie of the Year race. A lot can certainly happen between now and when the voting will begin, but the level of play that both players have demonstrated this early into the season is not lost on the voters.
A year ago, it may have been hard to imagine Scottie Barnes playing the way he has been doing so for the Toronto Raptors or any other NBA team for that matter. Those assumptions have easily been blown out of the water and it’s safe to say that Barnes and the Raptors are a match made in basketball heaven.
The Raptors next play on Thurdsay, November 11, at 8:30 AM, Manila time.