Scottie Barnes Gave 11 Reasons Why the Rookie of the Year Award Is His for the Taking

Thanks to Scottie Barnes, the Toronto Raptors‘ anticipated rebuild was quicker than expected.

Following a down year that many believed would lead to major changes above the border, the Raptors are firmly in the mix to earn a top-six seed in a loaded Eastern Conference. One big reason why is Barnes, Toronto’s 20-year-old rookie whom it selected fourth overall in last year’s draft.

Barnes has had steady production throughout his rookie season but often trailed other newcomers for the prestigious Rookie of the Year award. However, the athletic forward could join Vince Carter and Damon Stoudamire in Raptors lore after his dominant display against the Brooklyn Nets.

Scottie Barnes hit his first 11 shots in a career-topping night

The Raptors were in desperate need of a bounceback game on Monday, having lost by a combined 59 points over the last two nights. Fortunately, the 20-year-old Barnes came to save the day.

Appearing in his 52nd game of the season, Barnes hit each of his first 11 shots from the field in Toronto’s 133-97 drubbing of the Nets. The vast majority came in the paint, as the 6-foot-9 slasher attacked the rim and had his way with a shorthanded Brooklyn frontcourt.

Barnes finished the game with 28 points on 12-of-14 shooting, tying a career-high set three days prior in a loss to the Charlotte Hornets. However, he also pulled down a career-best 16 rebounds and swiped five steals. Nine of those rebounds were on offense, which helped lead to 16 second-chance points.

“He’s going to get [the ball] no matter what,” guard Malachi Flynn told ESPN after the game. “You don’t have to give him the ball, he’s going to find a way to go get it and those are the best players to play with.”

After registering 28 points in two of his last three contests, Barnes is now averaging 14.8 points on 48.7% shooting this season. He’s also bringing in 7.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.1 steals a night.

The Scottie Barnes Rookie of the Year case just grew a lot stronger

Barnes was the fourth pick of a loaded 2021 NBA Draft, selected after Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, and Evan Mobley. The pick was somewhat of a shock, especially with Jalen Suggs still on the board. But the former Florida State Seminole has validated his draft slot and then some.

The 20-year-old has gone from starting seven games in his lone year in Tallahassee to starting all 52 of his professional contests. And in those starts, he’s averaging close to 15 points with 7.5 rebounds on a team that’s gone from 27-45 to 33-27.

After Monday’s performance, Barnes is now neck-and-neck with Mobley in the Rookie of the Year race.

Mobley, the 7-footer from the Cleveland Cavaliers that’s been compared to a young Anthony Davis, has been at the top of the leaderboard for essentially the entire season. Through 53 games, the former USC Trojan is averaging 14.8 points on 50.0% shooting, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks.

As you can see, Barnes and Mobley have identical scoring numbers, with the latter holding a slight edge in field-goal percentage and rebounding. However, the Raptors’ young star holds a higher Player Efficiency Rating (15.9), or PER, than the rookie taken one spot ahead of him (15.7).

While Mobley is easily the top defender in the rookie class, Barnes is arguably the top offensive newcomer. According to NBA Math, only Indiana Pacers guard Terry Taylor had added the most points to his team in correlation to his minutes. For what it’s worth, Taylor has played in only 16 games with two starts.

The battle for ROTY is coming down to the wire, with every game a potential make-or-break for the award. If Barnes has another game or two like Monday’s left in him, he could join Carter and Stoudamire as Toronto’s only recipients of the Rookie of the Year award.

Barnes might have a major opportunity to enhance his stats

The Raptors have a lot to play for entering the final few weeks of the regular season. Toronto is currently holding down the seventh seed, which places it in the play-in round. However, it trails the Boston Celtics by only 1.5 games for the six-seed, which would ensure the team’s eighth playoff berth in nine seasons.

Though the Dinos might be a bit shorthanded throughout their quest. OG Anunoby hasn’t played since Feb. 16 and recently visited a hand specialist to look at the non-displaced fracture of his right ring finger. The 24-year-old has already missed 18 games for the Raps and could now miss a few more.

Anunoby’s extended absence would certainly sting. But it would allow Barnes to have an even greater role in the offense, particularly as a scorer.

With only 22 games left to make his case, expect Barnes to lay it all out on the court. With any luck, he’ll help lead the Raptors to the postseason and deliver the franchise its third Rookie of the Year title.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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