the SLAM x Panini rookie spotlight is a weekly series covering Draft Class 2021. Every Friday we put a different rookie in the spotlight who makes an impression, shows his potential or flies under the radar. Follow during the 2021/22 season.
If you search for “Scottie Barnes player comparisons” on Google, you will get a variety of answers. Draymond Green. Jabari Parker. Bam Adebayo. Patrick Williams. Pascal Siakam. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Lamar Odom. 1st floor Anunoby.
The NBA Draft Room website offers perhaps the widest range of options:
“Stronger Nicolas Batum”
“Dare I say a poor man’s Magic Johnson?”
“Larger Draymond Green”
When we portrayed Barnes in 2019, Jim Carr – his then University School trainer – brought up two other interesting names: “We were watching clips the other day when they announced the All-Americans and they showed Penny Hardaway,” he told SLAM. “Penny loved to pass the ball. The torch. people say [they see] a lot of Ben Simmons in him, but I keep going back to Penny Hardaway. “Barnes himself – who was still in his sophomore year at the time – compared his game to the Greek freak:” I would say Giannis because I’m very tall, for Basket come on, am athletic and could ricochet the ball and “do several things.”
For what it’s worth, Draymond Green is probably the name that comes up the most. But all of the comparisons – even those that seem far-fetched or not quite brave enough – allude to three key characteristics that make Barnes a player: his size, athleticism and versatility.
At 6-9, 227 pounds and a crazy 7-3 wingspan, Barnes has the build of an imposing striker and the agility of a traditional guard. In fact, he ran the point during his only season in Florida State. While “officially” listed as a striker by the NBA, Barnes’ own Instagram biography reads: “6-9 PG”. He is the prototypical positional player in an increasingly poseless NBA. He can defend pretty much anyone who kicks the ground (like a combo striker) and orchestrates the offense up (like a real guardian) after leading the FSU on assists per game last season (4, 1). Just check out the two clips below from the Raptors’ win over the Celtics. May I say … a poor man’s magic johnson?
Barnes finished this game – only his second as a professional – with 25 points, 13 rebounds and 2 assists.
His exterior shots have always been the biggest question mark. He only achieved 28% of his 1.7 three-point attempts per game in college. But when Barnes goes downhill and attacks the paint aggressively, he’s very, very difficult to stop. In other words, as his jumper continues to develop, Barnes can find ways to score by relying only on his physical abilities. In five games he averaged 17.0 points with 54% shot from the field. Of his total of 67 FGAs, 55 were within 15 feet of the basket; and he has implemented 71% of his attempts on the rim (17/24).
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse wants Barnes to be even more confident, he told reporters after a recent loss to the Mavericks in which the rookie scored 17 points (10 in the fourth quarter alone) and 8 rebounds.
“I think he needs to do more of the things he ended up doing [of the game]. For example, if he has the place in a one-on-one match, he’ll have to put them in the edge until they stop him, ”said Nurse. “He’s got to stick them in the edge until they stop him. Over and over and over and over again. And if they pull back and he has to pull up for 10 or 12 feet, that’s fine too. But that’s where we’ll see his passing game show up once he starts drawing other defenders. And again, he’s just like that – he has to be more aggressive. With all of the layups you’ve seen in a row, we’ll have to double or triple that number of tries, even until they stop. And then we’re in the color and we’ll fire it at our open shooters. “
But forget the rating for a second. Toronto drafted Barnes # 4 overall for failing to do so have to Score to be effective (many pure scorers were available). It’s certainly a welcome bonus when he does – especially since the Raptors are 23rd. to haveapprox ranked offensive in the NBA as of this writing – but the former Seminole does so much more to sway the win. He competes with great energy and intensity (see below – another reason the Draymond comparison fits). He effectively crashes the boards (8.2 RPG average so far) and takes on any challenge in defense (he’s already guarded Bradley Beal, Jayson Tatum, and Luka Doncic). He handles the ball well and increases the pace in transition. And, as Nurse pointed out, the more color he gets, the more opportunities he can create for others.
When a 20-year-old can do all of these, it is not easy to find the right comparison. Even the Hall of Famers are in awe of Barnes’ talent at this early stage in his career.
“Scottie Barnes is a bloody newbie. He’s a great player, ”said Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd recently. “He’s really, really good. He’s causing a problem on both ends of the floor and he knows how to play the game. He’s going to be a star in this league if he’s not already a star. ”