3 Things We Learned From Scottie Barnes’ Breakout Season With the Toronto Raptors

Rookie Scottie Barnes was an indispensable part of the Toronto Raptors claiming the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference this season. Selected with the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the forward started all 74 games he appeared in, averaging 35.4 minutes per outing.

Across those contests, Barnes posted 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.1 steals per game while shooting 49.2% from the floor, 30.1% from three-point range, and 73.5% from the foul line. Those efforts were enough for him to win the 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year Award.

Here are three things we learned from Barnes’ standout rookie season.

Scottie Barnes is a multifaceted, two-way player 

Toronto Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes in NBA action.
Scottie Barnes throws down a dunk against the Philadelphia 76ers. | Mark Blinch/Getty Images

Barnes was a do-it-all force in his lone season at Florida State. He continued to be that type of player in his rookie season with the Raptors and, to a degree, took his game to the next level.

Barnes dabbled in all parts of the Raptors’ success this season. He put the ball on the floor, scored off the dribble, finished in the paint with ease, hit the boards, occasionally stretched the floor, and defended well. All the while, Barnes was able to get position and score in the post, which was aided by his athleticism and length at 6-foot-7.

Barnes’ first NBA season was preceded by one year of collegiate ball, where he mostly came off the bench. In other words, he has been a raw product in each of the last two seasons. Heading into his second professional campaign, the Florida State product gets to build on his success, as he’s not making another transition between leagues. 

There’s little that Barnes hasn’t exhibited an ability to do over the last two years. He makes an impact on both ends of the floor. Furthermore, the young star isn’t just flashing potential in his skill set, as he was a productive force on one of the better teams in the East of late.

The sky’s the limit for Barnes because there are so many dimensions to his game.

Scottie Barnes is a consistent jump shot away from being elite

Yes, Barnes has a high ceiling and just won Rookie of the Year honors. At the same time, every player has a weakness, especially a rookie. For Barnes, that’s his perimeter game. 

While respectable, Barnes’ outside offense has left much to be desired at both the pro and college level. He has a long, rangy shooting form that can take a while to get over defenders. This was masked by his ability to score points off the dribble and in the paint, as well as the Raptors having a roster of proven players who are efficient shooters.

It’s feasible to think that Barnes can improve this aspect of his game. It’s difficult for a player who lives out on the perimeter to develop a habit of attacking the basket, as players are draped in their face to presumably contest a jump shot. In Barnes’ case, though, he draws attention by attacking the basket, which can lead to defenders giving him breathing room when he corrals a pass from a teammate. 

With Barnes continuing to play with an attacking mindset, he’ll have his fair share of clean looks from the perimeter, given that defenders will anticipate a drive to the rim. If he begins hitting shots with more consistency, the rookie is going to be an elite player. He won’t have an offensive weakness that can’t be overcome. 

Such a development will make the forward the Raptors’ best player and perhaps their centerpiece for the foreseeable future.

Scottie Barnes will be the Toronto Raptors’ next homegrown star

There are a handful of NBA teams that have a track record of developing players; the Raptors stack up with any team in that regard.

Toronto has a roster of homegrown players that have continually improved. Pascal Siakam is a two-way player and versatile scorer. Fred VanVleet is a composed floor general and high-level shooter. OG Anunoby has become a reliable shooter and defender. Chris Boucher is a plug-and-play, athletic big man. Youngsters Gary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa, who were both acquired within the last 13 months, have become vital rotation pieces.

Siakam, VanVleet, Anunoby, and Boucher were all mere rotation players multiple years into their respective NBA careers. In the present, they’re the heart and soul of the Raptors. Surely, individual commitment and physical growth have played a role, but their collective success is also a testament to the Raptors’ knack for developing young players. 

Barnes is more advanced in his rookie season than all of the aforementioned players were. He has a well-rounded skill set, can adapt his game, and is already in the starting lineup. The forward is going to become more impactful and productive with age; he’s in a system that rarely misses.

There’s every objective reason to believe that Barnes will be the Raptors’ next homegrown star.

All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.

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