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In the few weeks following the NBA season, there was nervous anticipation leading up to the draft lottery about where the Raptors would land in the draft. The lottery balls landed the Raptors’ way, and following that was weeks of speculation about who the Raptors would take with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
It had been uncertain up to this point, with several names having been thrown around and the teams ahead of them wavering on who they might select. Now, the moment has finally come, and the Raptors have walked away from the draft with forward Scottie Barnes from Florida State University.
The draft shook out roughly how most expected it to go for the first three picks. Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham was widely expected to be picked first overall in the draft, and that is exactly what happened. Jalen Green followed afterward, heading to the Houston Rockets, while the Cavaliers selected USC big man Evan Mobley. The Raptors were projected to take guard Jalen Suggs from Gonzaga, but they went with a big shakeup, betting on Barnes’ long-term upside.
Scottie Barnes projects to be a forward long-term for the Raptors, and at least in the interim, it appears he will come off the bench. He walks into one of the league’s best development programs and has great examples of how to mold himself into an elite two-way player in OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam already on the roster.
So, how did the Raptors do with their selection? How is the situation going to look for Barnes going forward? We dive in below:
Grade for the Raptors: B
This is a big surprise. All things considered, this is still a good pick, and the Raptors are betting high on Barnes’ long-term upside over Jalen Suggs’ NBA readiness. However, passing up an obvious need at the guard position is a big gamble, and it won’t be obvious whether it’s worth it or not for a while.
Barnes’ biggest knock is his outside shooting, and that’s a very fixable problem if he puts the work in. He has excellent physical tools with a 6-foot-8 frame and an insane 7-foot-3 wingspan. He has elite defensive instincts, and is a smart player who is willing to work to get better. All of this matches what the Raptors look for in a player, and they truly do believe that if Barnes develops properly, he could have some of the highest upside in this draft.
By passing on Jalen Suggs, the Raptors have once again proven that they are more concerned with who will be the best player down the line, as opposed to who might be the best if they stepped on an NBA court today. Perhaps the Raptors have other plans at the guard position, and that contributed to their decision to not take Suggs.
Barnes reportedly scored lots of points in his interviews, with plenty of teams around the league praising his character and work ethic. He was projected to be a top five pick regardless, and he went fourth overall, so it cannot be considered that much of a reach.
The bigger question for Toronto is what comes next. Kyle Lowry is set to hit free agency on Monday evening, and they now have a logjam at the forward position. How do the Raptors clear a spot if they intend for Barnes to be a starter at some point in the future? That will be the true indicator of how this pick will grade out years down the line.
For now, it looks like the Raptors are playing the long game with this pick, but Barnes has the potential to be a serious gem. This could pay dividends down the line, and fans will have to be patient.
Grade for Scottie Barnes: A+
As far as his personal development, Barnes could not have landed in a better spot than in Toronto. The Raptors are the perfect spot for him to develop his offensive elements and become a complete player going forward.
OG Anunoby is the player the Raptors will want to mentor Barnes in his early days in terms of his career trajectory. Anunoby played most of his rookie year as a three-and-D guy, and slowly incorporated more into his game as the years have gone on. Heading into his fifth year, he is now considered one of the league’s premier two-way players and will likely be knocking on the door of his first NBA All-Star selection this coming year.
The fact that Toronto has had so much success with its player development program should excite Barnes. He is going to get ample opportunity to develop and be brought along at a slower pace than he might have if he were joining a rebuilding team and playing heavy minutes right away. The team will formulate a plan to bring along Barnes, and Nick Nurse should be excited at utilizing this talent.
While Barnes may take a bench role to begin his career behind Anunoby and Siakam, he will still figure to have an impactful first year. The team has a glaring need for a backup 3, and Barnes will fill that role nicely. It may indicate the departure of Stanley Johnson, but Barnes will endear himself to fans quickly with his hustle and heart on the court.
Overall, the pick may be a shock to Raptors fans, but believe me: this is far from the wrong pick. Scottie Barnes has the potential to be a serious All-NBA talent with the right seasoning, and the Raptors are the perfect team to help bring him along and unlock his game.
Passing on Jalen Suggs may seem like an odd decision in the moment, but in time, the answers will reveal themselves.