Scottie Barnes key to Raptors’ return to NBA playoffs in 2022

The Toronto Raptors are trying to bounce back from a season that has seen them miss the playoffs since the 2012-13 NBA season. What’s the key to getting them back on track? Scottie Barnes is thriving in his rookie season.

Toronto selected Barnes with the fourth overall pick in the July NBA Draft. In one Barnes season at Florida State, he averaged 10.3 points, 4.1 assists, four rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He has demonstrated an ability to defend at a high level, finish in the paint and score the dribble.

Scottie Barnes is the kind of players the State of Florida has sent to the NBA lately, basically healthy two-way street players with good potential. This skill set is perfect for Head Coach Nick Nurse’s operation for several reasons: 1) the Raptors are a team with fundamentally sane players and 2) Barnes could be a new dimension to their offense.

Pascal Siakam has shown an ability to be a high impact player with his defensive talent and multidimensional score. Fred VanVleet is a leading marksman and a compound track general. OG Anunoby has become a legitimate scoring option as well as being a dead shooter and reliable defender.

Gary Trent Jr. is an energetic goalscorer. Chris Boucher is an athletic first zone goalscorer. Khem Birch is a fluid inner player. Malachi Flynn is an efficient goalkeeper who knows how to defend.

The problem is, there is some parity in this rotation. For example, Siakam and Boucher get their points in similar parts of the ground. Meanwhile, VanVleet and Anunoby are dependent on their shooting ability. Now, parity doesn’t have to be a bad thing, rather it is something that can be a hindrance for a team trying to get back into contention. This is where Scottie Barnes is a compelling fit.

Scottie Barnes might not be a go-to scorer or dominant force, but he’s doing everything right. This type of player can become a factor of difference. To date, the production has not kept up the hype for Barnes, but that is no omen for what lies ahead in the NBA.

First of all, Barnes won’t be the centerpiece of the Raptors’ offense and defensive attention from opposing teams for that matter. Siakam and VanVleet are the players the teams plan the game for while keeping an eye on Trent and Anunoby.

In the early stages of his NBA career, Scottie Barnes may be the player who enjoys the attention his teammates get. This means double-digit points per game and hitting the charity strip by attacking the rack. Barnes’ ability to effectively put the ball on the ground, the sky above the rim, play in the post and occasionally attempt mid-range jump shots makes him a versatile player who is difficult to stop. .

Over time, teams may need to change their defensive scheme to focus on slowing down Scottie Barnes, which will make it easier for the pre-existing core, which is those players who haven’t even hit their peak.

Perhaps the most problematic issue for the Raptors and Scottie Barnes is that in the midst of their odd season, several rebuilding teams have made leaps into the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, a handful of other teams are on the verge of making a breakthrough or have made some high-impact moves this offseason.

Scottie Barnes knows the Atlanta Hawks went from the 14th seed in the East in 2020 to making the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The first year of the Tom Thibodeau era saw the New York Knicks snatch all four seeds. The Indiana Pacers have just had a season full of injuries.

As for big deals in the offseason, the Chicago Bulls have acquired DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball while the Washington Wizards’ busy offseason could see an elite offense. The Miami Heat has Kyle Lowry in the fold and the Boston Celtics have the tools to get back into the race, where the Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers are all big.

While the NBA Play-In Tournament leaves the door open for any playoff hope, the new East look is a daunting task for the Raptors and Scottie Barnes to overcome. However, they have continuity on their side, which is one of the most successful and reliable elements a team can have; Siakam, VanVleet, Anunoby and others went to war together in the playoffs.

Kyle Lowry is gone. His absence mixed with a season in which the Raptors played 9 p.m. from home (the Raptors played their home games in Tampa Bay, Fla. Due to COVID-19 issues), Siakam and Nurse would disagree and the team missing out on the playoffs makes the 2021-22 NBA season the dawn of a new era for the Raptors. It is possible for this team to return to the playoffs, but it needs significant internal development.

This development is Scottie Barnes. He needs to live up to his draft selection in terms of production and impact for the franchise to stay afloat and have a way of contention for the near future.

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