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Accelerated Growth of Rookie Barnes Overshadows Raptors’ Inconsistent Start

It was always supposed to be Jalen Suggs.

At least that is what we were led to be believe.

It didn’t take Scottie Barnes long to leave a lasting impression with newly adopted city of Toronto. Between the smile and the never-waning youthful joy that he carries himself with, the 20-year old Barnes is already a fan favorite amongst Raptors hopeful.

But he may be more than just a fan favorite.

The Toronto Raptors selected Barnes out of Florida State with their fourth overall pick in this past year’s June draft. The Raptors are no strangers to finding success at no. 4 in the Draft either, with Hall of Famer Chris Bosh being the teams most recent selection in that spot and multi-time All-Star Antawn Jamison – who was immediately traded for the draft rights of Vince Carter – being the Raptors other fourth overall pick.

Needless to say, the magnitude and pressure attached to such a high pick on a rebuilding team is clear, yet Barnes has taken it in stride.

Through five games in the early goings of the regular season, the Raptors have already dealt with their fair share of inconsistencies, but what has overshadowed all of that has been the rapid growth of Barnes.

The 6-foot-9 forward is averaging 17 points and eight rebounds per game, while shooting at a 53.7-percent clip from the field. While many rookies ease their way into the NBA, Barnes’ confidence has allowed him to take on the new challenge with a full head of steam. The intangibles are all there, from his incredible basketball instincts, to his ability to lead the fast-break with the ball in his hands like a veteran guard.

“He can play the point as a preliminary or secondary point guard. He can bring the ball up and run the offense. He can do that kind of stuff,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of Barnes. “Can play the five too.”

It’s not only the Raptors that are noticing Barnes’ accelerated growth. Opposing coaches cannot help but laud the rookie’s confidence and off-the-chart talents.

“Defensively, [he] can play a lot of different players, ” said Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan on Barnes after the Bulls 111-108 win over the Raptors earlier this week. “[He’s] got the versatility and length to guard a lot of different people. … He’s only going to get better with minutes and through playing. And certainly, he’s gotten off to a great start in this early part of the season.”

It’s Barnes ability to be a force on both ends of the court that has everyone already excited. Not only has he seamlessly integrated himself into what is still a very much work-in-progress offense in Toronto, his high IQ, length, and athleticism is shaping Barnes into one of the game’s youngest two-way stars. The down side remains the lack of shooting ability, but the Raptors are investing heavily in Nick Nurse’s three-point shooting philosophies and the head coach believes Barnes has everything he needs to develop a reliable perimeter shot.

“I think he is going to be a really good shooter someday,” Nurse said. “For somebody that people say he needs to work on this or can’t shoot or whatever. Well, it looks pretty good coming off his hands and all those things and he’s got a good work ethic so those things go hand in hand over time to where he’ll develop into a decent shooter. He has been good.”

If there is one thing the Raptors have is time and as the team continues to build for the future, the Raptors return to contention may be a quick one if Barnes continues on this rapid and unforeseen path to stardom.

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