Toronto Raptors Rook Scottie Barnes Becoming All The Threat Nick Nurse Needs

Toronto Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes appears to be coming of age and his improved shooting is a positive amid what has been a very poor season for the Canadian side. The Raptors have won just nine of their first 22 games to start the term and could end up among the lottery teams by the end of it. Life after Kyle Lowry certainly hasn’t been bright. 

Barnes, though, offers hope. The first-year man, a fourth overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, was a worry coming into the league because of his shooting. He only made 41 attempts from beyond the arc while at Florida State and scored just 11 of them for 27.5 percent.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse told reporters the player’s jump shot had improved during the preseason and that his mechanics looked “really good.”

“First of all, his role is going to be huge,” Nurse said. “I’m sitting here from day one to give him as many minutes and reps and all those things that he can handle. His impact of defending, rebounding, running… his spirit and enthusiasm, size… all that stuff gets him in the mix, early and often. And he’ll stay in there, often [late in close games].

“Obviously we’ve worked on shooting right away from day one. The mechanics look really good, you know, and it just takes a little time to get super comfortable and get those mechanics on kind of autopilot.”

Barnes, though, went 2-for-13 from three in his first 15 games wearing the Raptors uniform and seemed hesitant to let fly from long distance after going 2-for-7 in his first seven appearances. He only attempted four more threes over the course of his next eight games, missing all of them, with five games failing to see a single heave.

He still led all rookies in scoring during the period, averaging 14.9 points a night, however. As of his last five games, he’s shot 47.6 percent, draining 10 of 21 attempts from three.

The player has been rewarded with increased playing time. Barnes, who averaged 24.8 minutes in college, playing 30 minutes or more only four times, has played 38, 37, 35, and 39 minutes his last four games. 

“I’m just trying to play hard, play to win. Sometimes you get caught not being focused out there, just gotta try to pull yourself together,” the forward said after practice on Wednesday.

He also admitted to feeling it physically.

“For sure. You have one night off and the next one you’ve got another game and then you play a lot of minutes,” he pointed out.

“So, I would say the main difference is just my body is feeling it a lot more than how it felt in college. You would come in and you’d have a few days off (while at Florida State), didn’t really play so much especially with the COVID and stuff like that.

“You just sort of found (now, upon entering the NBA), that as the game goes, as soon as you’re done you start feeling it right away.”

“You’ve just got to keep coming in and get more treatment (such as massages, ice baths, stretching and so on). You’ve got to learn how to take care of your body. I would say that’s the main thing,” he added.

The Raptors will hope for long-term improvement on the back of Barnes’ newfound shooting touch but are 3/1 to make the playoffs at the moment and the legal sportsbooks offered by Ontario online sports betting will be sure to have odds on their games and futures all season long.

As for his long-distance shooting, Barnes is relishing the open looks and has attempted 4.5 per game over the last four contests. The Memphis Grizzlies left him with space on Tuesday night and he took advantage, hitting three from long range after making four of them in the previous game against the Boston Celtics.

“I would just say I’m taking it game by game,” he explained. “(Opponents are) still helping off, so I’m still getting wide-open looks. We drive, penetrate and kick and most of the time I’m wide open so I’m just trying to take wide-open shots.”

While Barnes has been hitting well over 40 percent of his threes in recent games, his teammates have only been good for 29 percent, which is saying something.

“They’ve been telling me so other people can drive and get those lanes and for our bigs to just roll and be able to get lobs and things like that you’ve gotta space out,” he said. “I usually try to cut and look for open spots on the floor but they’ve been telling me to get out just so we can get our spacing right,” Barnes said.

“I think space is a key thing in our offence that we need to be successful.”



About Joel Levy 2575 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography