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Player Preview: What’s in store for Scottie Barnes’ Sophomore Season?

After being drafted fourth overall, a historic season, and winning Rookie of the Year — what’s next for Toronto’s Golden Boy?

Philadelphia 76ers v Toronto Raptors - Game Four Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

It seems pretty impossible to be a Toronto Raptors fan and not be absolutely enamoured with Scottie Barnes. He has quickly risen to become one of the most personable and enthusiastic members of the Raptors roster... and that’s just off the court!

His apparent love for the city and the team aside, the kid had a very good rookie year. Drafted fourth overall, broke a ton of records, got lots of playing time, and made it to the playoffs. Not to mention he also won Rookie of the Year, which like, duh. Not bad for a rookie season on a “developing team.”

Going into the summer, despite the already-sky-high level of his basketball ability, Barnes was vocal about his desire to get reps, get stronger, and work on his overall game. Compared often to players like Magic Johnson, Scottie strives to be a player that can get it done anywhere on the court — and while there are aspects of his game that are just phenomenal considering his age, there is always room for improvement.

When Scottie was first drafted, there were a few concerns with his shooting ability, which overall didn’t turn out THAT bad in his rookie year. He finished the 2021/22 season with a field goal percentage of 49.2% and a three point percentage of 30.1%. He averaged 15.2 points per game, and 7.5 rebounds, along with 3.5 assists per game.

Scottie likes to call himself a big point guard, and on a team like the Raptors where 1) position-less basketball is often promoted and 2) there aren’t many backup point guard options, Scottie often has the opportunity to show his point guard abilities off. That is sure to continue this season.

Plus, there’ll be more trust put onto him this season — but also a bit more pressure. Gone are the days of brushing off mishaps because he’s a rookie. Barnes is now expected to be a high-performing member of this team every minute of every game — becoming a next up option after the team’s obvious stars Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. He’s ready for it.

He’ll also have more international attention on him. As the reigning Rookie of the Year on a team that very rarely gets much praise from some of the bigger American outlets, his star power brings more eyes to him and the team. As he develops this year, his potential will be assessed and commented on by other superstars, analysts, and fans alike.

Yet, Scottie seems to thrive under the spotlight. He’s already making waves in commercial spots, always has the perfect quote or response, and his personality makes him just so darn likeable. Mix that with his undeniable skill, and the kid was born to be a generational franchise superstar.

If you followed his journey this summer, he put in WORK. I mean, even if you just watched him in the Raptors’ first preseason game, you may have been able to tell he got BIGGER. He looks less like a lanky teenager and more like a nearly seven-foot brick wall. If he was already defending players like MVP Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, imagine what he is capable of now, with this new strength.

Based on what we’ve seen so far in the preseason, it also looks like his shooting has improved. His jumper in particular looks silky smooth — which will be necessary for the Raptors, a team that often goes through shooting slumps late into games.

Speaking of the preseason, we got a little glimpse of Sophomore Scottie on Sunday’s preseason opener against the Utah Jazz. While the game ended up being more of a showcase/tryout for some of the non-guaranteed players on the roster, we did get some glimpses of Scottie goodness.

See what I meant about that silky shot?

In terms of projections, the stat-makers predict Barnes could increase his field goal percentage to just over 50%, and average over 16 points per game this season. He is projected to see an increase in every stat as he progresses through his NBA sophomore year — not surprising.

Yet, Scottie is the type of player whose impact goes beyond the stat sheet. His defensive energy has always been there, and has only grown on a team with a defence first mindset. In the first preseason game against Utah, he was already getting deflections and doing the most on defense, being seen getting frustrated when his play didn’t turn out as intended.

If we saw him hold Nikola Jokic to zero points in a whole quarter during his rookie year, imagine what he is capable of now, at his new size?

On offense, his size will lend to the physical nature of the NBA. Coming from college ball, it may be hard for some players to adapt to the physicality of the NBA. Now that Scottie is a little bigger and stronger, he can use that strength to get to the rim more, but his speed will help him shake defenders as well. You gotta be a big guy to defend Scottie, and many of those size guys in the league don’t have his speed.

With a seemingly new-found confidence to initiate contact, he can also get to the free throw line more, creating more opportunities.

Mix it all together, and it’s apparent Scottie is turning into the player he hopes to be — a guy who can compete anywhere on the court. This season should see him improve his playmaking abilities and his shooting — while still being a defensive force and a magic-maker at the rim.

His star-power and confidence will only allow him to be more of a presence on this team, and his personality makes him an instant fan-favourite. His talent seems to have no ceiling, and if we were shocked by the strides made in his rookie season, his sophomore season is sure to wow fans, opponents and media alike.

Scottie Barnes is superstar. Get on board now, because this kid’s journey is sure to be unforgettable.