Scottie Barnes has been below the highlight all season because the No. 4 choose within the draft, and the 20-year-old could be the fulcrum on which the way forward for the Toronto Raptors balances.
From draft night time onwards there have been questions. ‘Can he shoot’ and ‘will he be capable of rating’ had been the commonest ones within the early going, then it turned ‘can he actually be this good’ and ‘how good can he get?’
Barnes performed a few of his finest basketball of the season because the Toronto Raptors closed out a extremely profitable six-game highway journey towards the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night time. The 103-100 win prolonged their profitable streak to 5 video games and gave them a 5-1 document on the journey – the very best mark in franchise historical past on a visit of that size.
Toronto’s document improved to 39-30 as they pulled right into a tie for sixth place with the Cleveland Cavaliers, although the Cavs have the head-to-head tiebreaker ought to it come to that.
The Raptors had been bolstered by one other sensible recreation from Pascal Siakam, who led all scorers with 31 factors whereas including 12 rebounds and three assists on 13-of-22 taking pictures within the eighth straight recreation he’s had at the very least 27 factors. Fred VanVleet, who was a game-time determination along with his wonky knee, added 21 factors. The important thing bucket got here from Valuable Achiuwa, who gathered the Raptors’ twelfth offensive rebound on a Siakam miss and put it again to beat the shot clock and provides the Raptors a four-point lead with simply over a minute to play. The Clippers minimize what had been a 17-point third-quarter result in one with 35 seconds left.
The Raptors might have iced it when VanVleet received to the road with 15.7 seconds left. The 88-per-cent free throw shooter missed the second, received his personal rebound after which missed his second free throw once more, however Clippers ahead Marcus Morris couldn’t get any room as Achiuwa was draped throughout him on a doubtlessly game-tying three.
It was not Barnes’s most spectacular recreation of the journey, although he nonetheless completed with 15 factors and 4 rebounds and located methods to make some large performs down the stretch: A quick-break dunk off a turnover and one other coast-to-coast drive the place he learn the defence loading to Siakam and VanVleet and drove the ball 90 ft himself for important rating with 2:25 left to play. There was a doubtlessly pricey turnover too when he took command of the offence, drove the lane however fumbled what was presupposed to be a kickout to an open VanVleet, however the good far out-weighed the dangerous.
“Effectively, I prefer it quite a bit. Simply because he is in a combination, making performs with the sport on the road, and the extra cracks he can get at ‘em the higher for me,” mentioned Raptors head coach Nick Nurse of trusting Barnes with the ball down the stretch. “… he brings the ball up the ground and other people assume ‘effectively, he is too large to do this, we’re gonna stress him,’ and he is making them pay. They do not take it from him and he places it on ‘em and he places his physique on ‘em and he goes in an makes performs and that’ll finish that fairly rapidly. And the one move out was a little bit shaky, however like I mentioned, the extra reps the higher it will likely be for him in a while.”
With Barnes and the Raptors, the longer term is trying shiny, so in that theme and with the California solar nonetheless shining, it’s nearly as good a time as any to examine in on the Raptors rookie, whose recreation is rising, proper alongside along with his ambitions:
“Hopefully, sooner or later be within the Corridor of Fame. Be an All-Star, be on an All-Defensive Staff and naturally, this yr, attempt to win Rookie of the 12 months,” Barnes advised NBA.com on Monday. “Simply attempting to be acknowledged as among the best gamers within the league.”
You gotta love a person with large targets, particularly when he doesn’t flip 21 till August.
Listed below are some questions and a few solutions as Barnes and the Raptors head into the ultimate weeks of the season, with the final large highway journey within the rearview.
1. Is Barnes the Rookie of the 12 months?
He’s making a push to affix Damon Stoudemire and Vince Carter as the one Raptors to win the award, and his case will get higher on a regular basis. Heading into the Clippers recreation Barnes was the one rookie ranked within the prime 5 of each main field rating class: Third in factors (15.3), third in rebounds (7.6), fifth in assists (3.4), fourth in steals (1.2) and fifth in blocks (0.8). He’s hit the fuel for the reason that All-Star Sport, because the February rookie-of-the-month is placing up 18.6 factors, 8.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists with 1.6 steals and 1.1 blocks in March. His major problem is that the 2021 draft class is proving extremely deep.
“He’s undoubtedly one of many top-five candidates for rookie-of-the-year,” mentioned Clippers head coach Ty Lue.
Realistically he’s no worse than top-three and he’s constructing a robust case for No. 1, although the Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham and Cavaliers ahead Evan Mobley may have their say till the ultimate day of the common season.
2. What makes Barnes so good?
The record is lengthy. He scores effectively, rebounds effectively, passes effectively, defends effectively and does all of it effectively – he’s third on the Raptors (and first amongst all rookies) with 5.3 win shares, however he’s solely eighth on the group in utilization price. His finest attribute is perhaps that he finds a technique to be close to the ball on a regular basis.
“When you’re a man who has a nostril for the basketball which means normally you might have good anticipation about what’s coming forward of time, earlier than it occurs,” mentioned Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “Guys that appear to finish up the place the ball finally ends up, that takes, I believe, an anticipation or a considering forward or simply enjoying quite a bit. I do know he’s 20 however we’ve talked about all of the tales of they might by no means get him out of the health club, he was all the time enjoying pickup in a number of age teams … he’s performed quite a bit I believe to amass that sense.”
3. How important a scorer can Barnes be?
In some methods it’s the least of Barnes’s or the Raptors’ considerations; he’s already confirmed to be a participant that may have an effect on video games by being a complimentary offensive possibility: He doesn’t have to dominate possessions night time in and night time out. He makes probably the most of his possibilities.
Within the first quarter, he dribbled right into a post-up on the fitting block and scored on Clippers veteran Morris, a giant, bodily defender. Within the second quarter, he dribbled right into a post-up towards Amir Coffey. He discovered glass every time, his potential to dribble into post-ups and end is one thing the Raptors have been counting on increasingly more because the season strikes alongside. His three-point taking pictures reveals promise – he had a 12-game stretch he shot 41.3 per cent in earlier than Christmas, and has the power to shoot effectively from the mid-range – he’s a 50-per-cent shooter from 3-to-10 ft, exhibiting contact on contested pictures in tight quarters and has related on an affordable 40.3 per cent of his lengthy twos. Early within the fourth, he seemed greater than comfy getting into triple from the highest of the circle that gave the Raptors a little bit respiratory room when the Clippers had minimize that result in two.
His food plan of pictures will enhance over time and certain his shot-making too. Throw in a extra concerted effort to get to the road, his potential to generate further possessions – he leads all rookies in offensive rebound price, and he will get greater than his share of steals – and all of it provides as much as a participant who can discover his technique to 20 factors a recreation. Given every thing else he can do, it might be a fantastic threshold to succeed in.
4. How does Barnes match with the remainder of the Raptors lineup?
That’s been one of the vital thrilling developments of Barnes’s post-All-Star surge. He and Siakam have discovered methods to enhance one another’s video games, somewhat than crowd one another. Through the Raptors’ spectacular win towards Denver on Saturday Barnes and Siakam mixed for 17 assists and 6 of them had been to one another. In any other case, they took turns studying match-ups and attacking the extra beneficial one: Not too many groups have two defenders that may deal with large wings that may play level and assault within the put up equally as effectively. It was Siakam’s night time most of the time towards the Clippers, however Barnes nonetheless discovered a technique to crack double figures for the 50th time in 61 video games this season.
5. What place will he finally play?
That’s maybe probably the most outstanding factor about Barnes’s rookie season: It’s nearly over and it’s nonetheless anybody’s guess. It’s price noting that a few of Barnes’s finest minutes got here early within the fourth quarter when Nurse trusted the rookie sufficient to run the group with each Siakam and VanVleet on the bench. After they got here again within the recreation it was Barnes who picked up Clippers guard Terrence Mann, pressuring the ball. He compelled a turnover and it became a full-speed, rising smash as a part of a 10-2 run within the fourth. That performs, irrespective of the place Barnes performs.