You know the names: Damon Stoudamire. Vince Carter. The two biggest stars of the early days of Raptordom have many things in common, but only one trophy: They’re the only two Toronto Raptors to have won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award.
That might change this season, because Scottie Barnes is having a heck of a year.
Barnes, the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, has started every game he’s played for the playoff-bound Raptors. In those 71 games (as of this writing), he’s posted averages of 15.5 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals and .8 blocks, with 49/30/73 shooting splits.
If those numbers sound impressive — they are! Barnes ranks third among rookies in points, rebounds, blocks, and steals; fifth in field goal percentage and steals; and seventh in assists.
Advanced stats like Barnes, too; he’s the top rookie in win shares, VORP, BPM, and PER. He’s also fifth in net rating, seventh in defensive rating and fifth in rebounding percentage.
He’s good! Like, really good.
Odds on Scottie Barnes winning Rookie of the Year
Evan Mobley remains the odds-on favourite to win the Rookie of the Year trophy, at least according to our friends at DraftKings; he’s -225 to win it. But Barnes is a close second, currently sporting a betting line of +170.
That’s no long shot, and I gotta say that feels like a pretty good wager to me. Sure, Mobley might win it, but you’ll have to spend $225 to make $100 betting his way. There’s more value in putting your money on Scottie!
League-wide praise for Scottie Barnes
Are we biased over here at Raptors HQ? Uh, yeah. But hey! It’s not like we’re the only ones praising Barnes, here. LeBron James said he’s known Barnes was gonna special, since, well, birth, pretty much.
LeBron on Scottie Barnes who he says he knew was going to be special when he first saw him when Scottie was in seventh grade pic.twitter.com/ckiDKNyF3r— (@AaronBenRose) March 19, 2022
Kevin Durant? He likes Scottie, too.
And if there’s anyone you should listen to, it’s Kyle Lowry:
Asked Kyle Lowry about what he thought of the matchup against #Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes and about what he told him in this moment: “He fits in perfectly here… I just told him to keep going, don’t stop.” https://t.co/G962I23yH5 pic.twitter.com/XTR6ZLgABo— Adam Laskaris (@adam_la2karis) April 4, 2022
Scottie Barnes does it all for the Raptors
If you’re like me, you’ve at least partially blocked out the fan reaction to Barnes’ selection on draft night. It wasn’t great! Even I didn’t love the pick, and I don’t know anything about college hoops; but, enough smart draft people I listen to loved Jalen Suggs, and that meant Barnes felt like a reach at #4. It felt like Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster were taking a huge gamble, when a sure thing was sitting right there.
Yeah, we were all wrong.
It’s wasn’t hard to fall in love with Barnes from the start. He landed in Toronto after the draft, taking in the sights with Dalano Banton, and clearly having a blast. That energy carried right over into summer league, where he averaged 20/9/4 in four games.
Barnes wasn’t guaranteed a starting spot when the season began, but he was a logical choice with Pascal Siakam recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Barnes immediately had an impact, averaging a team-leading 18 points and 9 rebounds in the season’s first seven games, while shooting 55% from the floor. And despite the occasional blip — it’s a long season for a rookie! — Barnes has been impressively consistent since.
Even with the team at full health, Barnes has continued to play a big role. He’s probably the fourth or fifth option when Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby all play, but he’s not afraid to do the dirty work to get buckets (team-leading three offensive rebounds per game), or call his own number — or wait for opportunities in transitional lineups.
Barnes has not only been a critical part of the offense, he’s guarded, well, everyone, all season long.
35 seconds of Scottie Barnes raising hell on Kevin Durant and James Harden pic.twitter.com/d8mY8i9cxZ— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) November 7, 2021
Rookie of the Year competition is tough
Praising Barnes and saying he deserves the Rookie of the Year award shouldn’t take anything away from Evan Mobley or Cade Cunningham — or the rest of this really impressive draft class. It would be hard to complain if Mobley (14.9/8.3/2.5) or Cunningham (17.3/5.5/5.5) won the award. Cunningham is giving Dwane Casey and the Detroit Pistons hope for the future. Mobley is a big part of the most successful non-LeBron Cleveland Cavaliers season since, like, 1993.
But Barnes and the Raptors are heading to a top-five playoff spot, while Cleveland is heading to the play-in, and the Pistons, back to the lottery.
Give the man his trophy
I’m still leaning Barnes’ way. The numbers are there, the wins are there. And you know what? The franchise deserves it, and the fans deserve it, after what we went through just to draft the kid — an entire season on the dang road.
Scottie Barnes is our Rookie of the Year!