What comes with being a top-five pick of an NBA draft may overwhelm a player until he’s considered a bust, or he may make an impact on the floor that can one day consider him a city figure, specifically to Scottie Barnes’ situation, a Toronto hero.
The attention. The lights. The adversity. It all happens throughout a lottery pick’s early years. For Barnes, his play with the Toronto Raptors last season earned him the Rookie of the Year award and strong consideration as one of the best two-way wing players in the League.
This season, Barnes has become a top target of defensive game plans looking to shut down the reigning Rookie of the Year. Despite his ongoing adjustment to how opponents defend him, his teammates and coaches still believe heavily in Barnes’ long-term potential as a featured weapon of Toronto’s offense.
“I said that his biggest challenge going in the year was to have the enthusiasm that he had last year,” head coach Nick Nurse said, per SportsNet. “Every game, he was a kid in a candy store, and that’s part of now you’ve got some attention, you get some focal [point], you get some tough defenders, you get knocked around a little bit. But keep working at it.”
With a 5-4 record in the month of November, the Raptors have seen the highs and lows of Barnes’ second year. From five-point performances to 19-point games, Barnes is currently on a roller coaster run, averaging 12.6 points and 5.3 assists on 21.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Those numbers certainly don’t matter to a veteran who contributed to the franchise’s first championship in 2019. Fred VanVleet is confident in Barnes’ ability to standout amongst the rest of the young talent around the League, and most importantly, it’s just November.
“Nobody around here is worried about him,” VanVleet said. “We know how great of a player he’s going to be. There’s not any young player I would trade him for. The sky’s the limit for him — I didn’t really even realize [Barnes’ slump] was a narrative until I was sitting at home watching the Detroit game. But yeah, it’s a little overblown.”
The professionalism of the Raptors has been the driving force toward the culture they’re trying to build. They display it again by keeping Barnes accountable and giving their utmost support to their future superstar. If the upcoming games turn out to be strong performances from Barnes, it’ll prove his will to develop and the quality skills he posses as a leader.
“Of course, I’m going to really embrace it, be who I am on the floor,” said Barnes. “…the ball is in my hands a little more when [Fred and Pascal] are out, but I’m just trying to take the game how it is—I feel like that’s a big thing, everybody giving me that confidence from the coaches to the players, having that support staff around me. I feel like that’s helpful.”