For the Toronto Raptors to return to the NBA postseason they will need Scottie Barnes to go from Rookie of the Year to candidate for the best player at his position in the league.
Among his Toronto teammates, no one doubts that Barnes has the ability to pull off that transformation.
“The sky’s the limit,” guard Gary Trent Jr. said. “I’ve watched him develop from the first day of practice to the end of the season. After his work for a summer and his experience for a season, I am eager to see how he will return next campaign. He will continue to apply the work, he will continue to pursue greatness. He can be whatever he wants to be.”
Barnes averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 35.4 minutes and started all 74 games in which he saw action. He led all rookies in playing minutes and was third in points and rebounds.
“This is possibly the best year a player can have at his position,” All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet said, referring to Barnes. “He has seen action numerous minutes, he has gained great experience at every position, offensively and defensively. He has had some injuries that he has had to overcome. He pretty much accomplished everything.”
A fourth-round draft pick after a season at Florida State University, Barnes expanded Toronto’s list of Rookie of the Year players after Vince Carter (1999) and Damon Stoudamire (1995-1996).
Barnes led Cleveland’s Evan Mobley by 15 points, the closest difference in the current voting format that began in the 2002-03 campaign.
“I would say my first year as a pro was pretty solid,” Barnes said Friday in the Raptors’ end-of-season interviews, a day after he was eliminated after losing in Game 6 of their first-round postseason series to the Raptors. Philadelphia 76ers.
“I learned a lot, I had development. It’s about winning, taking advantage of this campaign, improving and coming back stronger.”
Asked if he needed time for a reflective break after his first pro season, Barnes said he’s already looking forward to the 2022-2023 season.
“You just have to dominate, keep moving forward,” he said. “I already took a deep breath. It’s time to move on.”
HIGH ALIGNMENT WITHOUT PIVOT
In Toronto this season, Barnes joined a lineup filled with players of similar stature, all tall, athletic and versatile.
“It was really good to have all these versatile players who can do a lot of things on the floor,” power forward Pascal Siakam said. “It was fun”.
However, the Raptors lacked a player taller than 6-foot-9, making it difficult to contain 76ers center Joel Embiid in the postseason. That difficulty was compounded when Barnes sprained his left ankle in the first game and sat out the next two games, which ended in losses.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.