How should the Raptors view Scottie Barnes’ second crisis?

Scottie Barnes’ sophomore year wasn’t the big step up in his Rookie of the Year campaign that the Raptors and the team’s fans wanted. Reasonable minds may disagree on his disappointment, given the context of the overall team composition, but everyone agrees that it is difficult to predict his future.

With a slight dip in playing time, Barnes averaged the same number of points as he did in his rookie season, fewer rebounds and more assists.

Barnes turns 22 in August. He has plenty of time to continue developing and he is still likely to become a top player. The question is how high is his ceiling and how likely is he to get there.

For more information, I contacted Seth Partnow, Athleticism‘s data analyst, to put Barnes’ second season under the microscope from an analytical perspective and to help determine where the young Raptor is likely to go from here.

To grow: There are obviously a number of variables that impacted Barnes’ sophomore year. I imagine this is one of the biggest, if not the biggest difficulty of high-level statistical analysis: isolating the problem at hand. Before we get to the nitty-gritty, from a 30,000 foot vantage point, what jumps out at you the most about Barnes’ second season?

Participate : His first two seasons look pretty similar except for some major drops in his effectiveness in the mid-range areas. According to Basketball Reference, his accuracy on “floating” shots fell from 50.2% to 44.8%, while on jumpers from 10 to 16 feet the drop was even steeper, from 39.8%. at 29.7%. He also saw decreases on the longer jumpers, but he didn’t exactly turn it on from 3 as a rookie.

To grow: It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Barnes’ effectiveness could drop this year compared to last year, because I predicted it before the season. It wasn’t based on anything other than Barnes’ profile coming out of college, the league adjusting to him, and the legendary sophomore slump. (I asked Jayson Tatum, a former victim, about this at the start of the season.) What do you think of Barnes’ regression in this particular area?

Participate : I would take a bit of a wait-and-see approach with the only caveat being that the likelihood of him becoming a primary offensive mover should be considered lower due to regression as the shots he saw on not only a lack progress, but a real decrease in efficiency, are the sort of “star shots” that allow a player to have enough of the ball in his hands to be that kind of driving force for a team.

To grow: Let’s forget Barnes’ age/career stage for a second. For the past seven or eight years, the Raptors prided themselves on their ability to develop young players, and especially their ability to shoot. There have been massive successes (Norman Powell), moderate successes (OG Anunoby), mixed successes (Pascal Siakam) and, so far, failures (Barnes, Dalano Banton). How good can you learn to shoot at this level if a player’s past numbers are pretty poor?

Participate : When I’ve looked at this in the past, there’s very little precedent for a player who was a poor or non-ranged shooter in college, while winning less than 70% from the line, who then developed a reliable NBA. shooting range. Avery Bradley was the only notable exception to this rule that I can remember.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at some college numbers from these players:

• Powell — 74.6% in free throws, including 76.4% in his last two years at UCLA
• Siakam — 71.1% in free throws over two seasons
• Anunoby – 52.2% on free throws over two seasons, but shot 36.5% on 3 on limited attempts
• Barnes – 62.1% on free throws combined with 27.5% on 3s
• Banton – 63.1% on free throws combined with 23.1% on 3s

While I have questions about how successful Toronto’s player development under Nick Nurse was as it was prior to his appointment, strictly from a 6-9 draft development perspective as jump shooters, it there was a much lower starting point for Barnes and Banton than the other players you mentioned.

Delano Banton. (Jason Getz / USA Today)

To grow: Back to Barnes. His stats per minute and forward were largely static from year one through year two, with two exceptions: scoring efficiency plummeted and his game play (dropping from 1.88 to 2.44 assists per rotation) improved. Although the season has been disappointing for Barnes, he hasn’t gotten worse per se. Growth isn’t linear, so how do you see a second-year player hitting a roadblock?

Participate : It is always difficult to unpack the exact causes behind such a roadblock as you say. Although Barnes himself may not have shown the desired growth, there is decent circumstantial evidence that the environment around him was less healthy. Non-Scottie Raptors shot 35.2 percent from 3 in his rookie year, which, while not great, is significantly better than the 34.0 percent they shot last season.

On top of that, year three (on the way to extension eligibility) and year four (on the way to restricted free agency if no extension is reached) are much bigger inflection points. from a franchise valuation point of view. In that regard, something I like to remind people of is that Barnes having a “bad” third year is not the worst possible outcome. On the contrary, he having a incomplete season where the Raps don’t get the kind of information they need, positive or negative, to start making future plans and preparing for big decisions is what they need to avoid.

To grow: Barnes’ best attribute is his passing. The 2022-23 Raptors couldn’t get one hell of a shot, as you mentioned, which not only reduced his assist count, but also narrowed his drive lanes (and everyone else’s). How much does that factor into your assessment of him going forward?

Participate : When RJ Barrett first entered the league after a year at Duke, where the Blue Devils lacked spacing, scouts always talked about wanting to see him operate with NBA spacing. After his first year or two in New York, scouts still wanted to see him operate with actual NBA spacing. That’s kind of how I feel about Barnes.

That said, another big domino to fall will be whether Fred VanVleet stays in Toronto. If VanVleet leaves, are the Raptors bringing in a traditional type of point guard or a more combo guard/off-ball player? As we kind of imply, the Raptors had handed the keys to Barnes, who was only third in the starting group in play usage at 11.6, behind VanVleet’s 15.6 and the 13.2 from Siakam. That 11.6 number is nearly double the league average for a forward, but still well below the ball-handlers’ main territory. Likewise, his possession time of 20.5% lagged VanVleet (32.4%) and Siakam (24.5%).

Comparing further, here is the play usage of some of the other frontcourt players in the league with some of the heaviest offensive initiation loads. (We won’t even include de facto point guards such as Nikola Jokić and his 22.6% game usage here.)

• Domantas Sabonis — 16.4
• Draymond Green — 18.5
• Giannis Antetokounmpo — 14.7
• Jimmy Butler—14.1

Even Kyle Anderson (12.7) made more play than Barnes.

It’s never a bad thing to have multiple players with some degree of passing or creating, but if he’s not going to shoot from the outside and is going to have a secondary or tertiary playmaking role, how much of an impact player is it possible for Barnes to be? To that end, I’m very intrigued to see if the new training regime in Toronto leans more into that aspect of his game or tries to deploy him more as a game finisher than a game starter.

To grow: It’s more about player training and development than analysis, but Barnes is useful because he can be deployed in so many different ways: as a manager and screener, in the post and, with less success , as a threat of isolation. Does doing so much slow his growth in just one area, or is it necessary to ask him that early in his career in order to become the most complete player possible?

Participate : Earlier I mentioned the importance of the Raps being able to soberly assess and assess Barnes as a player, and to some extent the experimentation you mention is an important part of that. You wouldn’t want to turn a multi-talented prospect into just a working cog without exploring the studio space a bit more, and I think Toronto did that appropriately with Barnes. That said, this season will be where he and the team have to choose a path, or best case scenario for Barnes’ development to explode so that he doesn’t have to choose a path.

To grow: The big picture: How much should the Raptors allow 2022-23 to impact their vision of what Barnes can be, and how does that impact your vision of his career path most likely?

Participate: At this point I would describe myself as concerned but not worried quite yet. You certainly would have liked to see more development from him as a playmaker, shooter and defender. I know we haven’t mentioned this end of the floor much, in part because this is an analysis-driven conversation and defensive moves for non-centers can be hard to come by. and/or interpret. But if the path for Barnes is more of an all-around jack-of-all-trades type rather than a primary scorer or ball handler, top-tier defense has to be a major part of that package.

Only two years later, you don’t mean any particular doors have been closed to him, but the lack of progress to a bigger role makes some of the highest All-NBA-level player-type results for Barnes much less likely. . Admittedly, some of the hyperbole that got him off the table in an alleged Kevin Durant trade last offseason seems a little silly.

However, Siakam’s own path illustrates what an optimal outcome might look like. Siakam grew in spurts for his first two or three years before becoming an All-Star. Just as is the case with Siakam, I think Barnes would be poorly chosen as a primary offensive weapon and would be better served as a number two or number three on a top team. However, this path of development remains wide open for him.

(Top photo: Cole Burston/Getty Images)

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