Barnes is busting through in NBA Rookie of the Year race
If you’re a Raptors fan, it’s a good bet you’re feeling optimistic on the Dinos’ season right now. After all, the squad just went on a torrid six-game winning streak before engaging in an epic defensive slugfest against the NBA’s No. 2 team this past Tuesday. Though they ultimately lost to the Phoenix Suns 98-95, that game proved to anyone watching that the Raps can hang with the top dogs in the league.
One thing’s for sure, they’re going to give a lot of teams nightmares about playing against the likes of the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Fred VanVleet, and his powerhouse court mate, Pascal Siakam. Here’s the other thing: thanks to some astute drafting by GM Masai Ujiri, the Raptors also have a viable candidate for Rookie of the Year in Scottie Barnes.
Could No. 4 become No. 1?
At the time, there was speculation about whether Barnes was the right man for Toronto when he was selected with the fourth pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. There was much angst about whether to take the scouting-ranked Jalen Suggs at that spot. However, the Raptors have come out looking like draft geniuses, as Barnes has fit right in on the team and earned a starting five rotation spot from the get-go this season.
Barnes has made quite the case for his ROY candidacy. Though he’s faced some minor injury hurdles (he’s been out this week due to a sore knee), his odds have steadily progressed since he set foot on the hardcourt this year.
Chasing down Mobley
Since August, Barnes’ odds of becoming the ROY from have improved with each touch of the ball. He was available at +700 on Aug. 1, +400 on Nov. 1, and +350 on Jan. 13. He’s still got a bit to go to catch Evan Mobley (now sitting at -159), but he’s not that far off.
NBA Rookie of the Year 2021/2022
Sat, June 18 2022, 11:59 PM
Barnes Busting Through?
Take a look at Barnes’ numbers so far this season. He’s averaging 14.7 points, 3.5 assists, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 steal, and 0.9 blocks per game. Not too shabby for a rook. Compare that to the frontrunner Mobley, who is posting 14.9 points, 2.7 assists, 8.1 rebounds, 0.8 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game and you’re looking at a damn tight race for ROY.
Both players have missed some time this year, with Barnes playing in 32 of the Raps' 38 games so far and Mobley playing in 34 of the Cavaliers’ 42 games this season. However, the Raptors have played fewer games than most other teams, giving Scottie some catch-up potential over his ROY opponents.
Sitting in third on the odds board right now is Cade Cunningham at +450. The Pistons’ point guard is averaging 15.4 points, 5.4 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 0.6 blocks per game. With a huge game earlier this week, dropping 29 points on the Jazz, he padded his stats. He’s been full value for Detroit all year, and is well worth keeping an eye on if things start going south for the others in the second half of the year.
Barnes' development under Raps coach Nick Nurse has been a perfect scenario for the young, 6’7" small forward. While allowing the rookie to keep using his natural facilitating skills, Nurse has also encouraged Barnes to shoot tons more than he’s naturally inclined to. It’s all part of the Raptors’ grand plan to turn the rookie into a complete threat on the court. Not that he isn’t a terror already.
Barnes is Surrounded by Champs in T.O.
Barnes is also in the enviable position of playing alongside two Larry O’Brien-wielding champions in VanVleet and Siakam, who have taken him under their wings and also help space the floor for Barnes on any given night, giving him tons of good looks while keeping his work ethic honest.
With a full second half of the season still to come, it's likely Barnes and Mobley are going to battle it out for ROY rights straight down to the final buzzer.