On paper, Scottie Barnes’ transformation into a three-point shooter seemed to happen overnight. In just 21 games, the Toronto Raptors rookie has gone from the kind of player who would pass out of wide open three-pointers, to a three-point marksman, willing to let it fly from behind the arc almost without hesitation. But, behind the scenes, the work has been non-stop for Barnes since the moment the Raptors first got their hands on him following last July’s NBA Draft.
“We certainly have been encouraging him to [shoot threes] — all the coaches, the coaching staff, I give them tons of credit,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said following Saturday’s practice. “It always goes back to the players. They always come in in the morning, come in at night, they come in, and do double or twice what we ask them to do and then it becomes their switch to finally flip on, so just go ahead and do it. So give him credit for that.”
Right from the start, the Raptors were confident tweaking Barnes’ mechanics wouldn’t be much of an issue. It was a few minor things, Nurse said at the time, nothing was “broken.”
With Dalano Banton, however, Toronto knew the switch wasn't going to flip right away. His shot was going to take some time to work with.
Much like Barnes, Banton was a non-shooter coming out of college. He averaged two three-point attempts per game in his two collegiate seasons and shot 23.7% from behind the arc. The difference between the two, Nurse said, was their mechanics. Barnes' shot wasn't too far away. Banton's was.
But Nurse and the Raptors aren’t the kind to back down from a challenge. Instead, they’ve challenged the second-round pick to keep getting up shots. It’s why Toronto assigned Banton to the G League on Saturday, where he played in 36 minutes with the Raptors 905 and attempted eight three points. Sure, 2-for-8 isn’t very good, but it’s the fact that he’s taking the shots that the Raptors are focused on.
“He's done it all really well,” Nurse said. “He's gonna get there. Like, I'm totally confident he's gonna get there and it's just a matter of how fast we can speed up the process.”
That’s why this back and forth between the 905 and the big club is going to continue for Banton who has seen his minutes toggle around through his first 23 NBA games. The Raptors are trying to get him as many minutes, as many reps, and as many shots as possible while he tries to get a feel for the tweaks they’ve made to his stroke.
Will it work?
Well, just look at Nurse’s track record not just with Barnes but up and down Toronto’s roster. From Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet to former Raptors like Norman Powell who came into the league with major developmental question marks. Ultimately, it was that journey between the G League and the big club, a ton of hard work, and an organization dedicated to development that made it all work.
So, if Nurse goes out of his way to say he’s confident Banton’s shooting will develop, it’s hard not to believe him.