Scottie Barnes has taken the step towards NBA superstardom


Highlights Scottie Barnes, selected 4th overall by the Toronto Raptors, has proven to be a two-way star in the NBA with his dominant defense and improving offensive game.
Despite less impressive stats in college, Barnes’ defensive skills and traits like effort and lateral quickness made him a top prospect in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Barnes has shown significant improvement in his second season, averaging 20.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game, making him one of the most valuable players in the league. He has the potential to become an All-Star in the future.
Every year during the NBA Draft, executives have to rate a high range of players. Some have a lower ceiling, but look like they’ll be rotation players. Others have higher potential, but also have warts that need to be fixed if the player is to become a starter.
Then there are players that have All-NBA potential. LeBron James and Anthony Davis walked into the league as All-Stars, but some guys with this type of potential are going to take a little more time.
Scottie Barnes was this type of player and the Toronto Raptors selected him thinking if they developed him properly, he could become a two-way star in the league. Eleven games into his third season, that seems to be the case with the young swingman.
An ascending high school prospect
Barnes began his high school career at Cardinal Newman in West Palm Beach, Florida before transferring to NSU University School in Fort Lauderdale. As a senior, he moved to Montverde Academy, joining two other top prospects in Cade Cunningham and Day’Ron Sharpe. By the time Barnes’ high school career ended, he was considered the fourth best prospect in the country.
Barnes elected to play his college ball at Florida State University. Considering his pedigree as a prospect, the small forward wasn’t all that impressive during his freshman year. In fact, he didn’t even start for the Seminoles. Barnes averaged 24 minutes a game, logging 10.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He shot 50 percent from the field, but only 27 percent from three and 62 percent from the free throw line.
Barnes received several honors in the ACC. He was named the conference’s Freshman of the Year and also the Sixth Man of the Year. In addition, he was named All-ACC Third Team. After the season closed, Barnes announced that he would be entering the 2021 NBA Draft.
A scout’s dream
Barnes had less than impressive stats in college, but that didn’t deter NBA scouts. The things Barnes did best at Florida State didn’t always show up in a box score. Most importantly, the small forward was an utterly dominant defender. And wings who can lock down their opponent’s top scorers are worth their weight in gold.
Savvy teams know that some prospect flaws can be fixed. This is especially true when it comes to shooting, a weakness for Barnes. Effort and lateral quickness, two of Barnes best traits, were much more difficult to develop.
The small forward was coming out in the same year as some prospects who were much more effective in college. But by the time the draft came around, Barnes was regularly seen as a top-five pick along with Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs.
Barnes landed in a great spot
On the night of the draft, Barnes was selected fourth overall by the Raptors. This was a great spot for him to land. The Raptors have been one of the better teams at developing talent over the past decade. Players like Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby have been major hits for the team, offering much more of a return than was expected considering where they were drafted.
And the Raptors development team was thrilled to get their hands on Barnes. The small forward was already an NBA level defender and he proved to be an even better player in the NBA than he was in college. In his first season, Barnes started all 74 games he played in. He averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game.
The NBA was quite impressed with what Barnes was able to do in his rookie year. Not only was he named to the All-Rookie First-Team, he was also named Rookie of the Year. The only issue was efficiency, as the small forward shot 49 percent from the field, but only 30 percent from three.
Good and bad in Year 2
In his second season, many of the things Barnes did well in his first year went slightly backwards. His rebounds dropped from 7.5 per game to 6.6. He only shot 45 percent from the field and his three-point percentage dropped to 28 percent.
Still, there were some real positives to take away from last season. Barnes’ playmaking was better as he averaged 4.8 assists, a really nice number for a small forward. He also played outstanding defense, notching 1.1 steals and 0.8 blocks per game.
The Raptors didn’t make the playoffs outright in 2023 and participated in a Play-In game against the Chicago Bulls, which they lost. The loss certainly wasn’t on Barnes. The small foward had a terrific game, scoring 19 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and recording two assists, two steals and a block.
Is the major breakout here?
As a defensive stopper with some offensive chops, Barnes was already a very valuable player. But the Raptors have been waiting for the offensive game to come around. That is happening in 2023 and the results are phenomenal.
Through 11 games this season, Barnes is averaging 20.9 points per game to go along with 9.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists. His percentages look much better as well. The small forward is shooting 47.5 percent from the field and 37.5 percent from three. Based on win shares, a stat that takes into account both a player’s offensive and defensive impact, Barnes has been the 12th most valuable player in the league this year.
Thanks to his outstanding defense, Barnes doesn’t need to be an elite offensive player to be a superstar. He just needs to be a bit above average, and he’s been more than that so far this season. If he keeps it up, Barnes has plenty of All-Star games in his future.
Read more: 5 keys to the Toronto Raptors’ 2023-24 season


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