Brian Macon rolled into bed just after three o'clock on NBA Draft night. The past few hours had been a whirlwind. First the emotions of watching Scottie Barnes, the young man he'd trained since seventh grade, walk onto the NBA's Draft night podium and shake commissioner Adam Silver's hand for the first time as the newest member of the Toronto Raptors. Then the festivities, hours and hours of excitement.
This was the moment he and Barnes had dreamt of since he first set eyes on the West Palm Beach product and realized the young boy was going to be something special. For the first time in years maybe it was time to exhale, to take a break, and enjoy the journey.
Then Macon's phone lit up with a text from Barnes.
"Yoooooooo," it read.
Macon knew what it meant immediately. This was not going to be a very long night.
"We in the gym at 8:30 tomorrow," Barnes said.
"Bet," Macon responded.
The question about Barnes coming into the 2021 NBA Draft was his shooting. The 6-foot-7 Barnes who turns 20 years old today has just about everything else you could want in a basketball player. He's long and athletic with a 7-foot-3 wingspan. He can defend one through four with ease, bring the ball up the court in transition, and he makes all the right plays from a playmaking perspective. The problem, if you will, is that 27.5% three-point stroke he had in college and his imperfect shooting form.
"Let’s put it this way, his shot isn’t broken," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "I think there’s probably a few little mechanical things that we’ll probably look at, as we do with everybody."
The difference between Barnes and some other prospects is the willingness to get better and fix those flaws.
"I had to literally kick him out of the gym," said Packie Turner who trained Barnes during the pre-draft process.
Barnes isn't running from his weaknesses, he's attacking them over and over again. From Day 1 this summer with Turner and fellow trainer Ross McMains he made it clear he wanted to become a better shooter.
The key for Barnes in that respect will be narrowing his stance and getting the most out of his strong legs, said former Montverde assistant coach Jermelle Fraser who coached Barnes along with Cade Cunningham and Moses Moody back in 2019-20. There isn't much wrong with Barnes' stroke from the waist up right now, he's just not generating enough power from his legs, the trainers said. Sometimes his shot comes off a little flat.
"He knows it and he's been aggressive attacking it," Turner said. "Any kind of number I give him in a drill, 'hey you have to go seven out of 10, you've got to get eight out of 10, you've got to make 10 in a row before we move.' Sometimes we'd do that. Sometimes it'd be 'hey, you need swishes to move,' just to change it.
"He'd never back down. It was never like, 'alright you've been out here a while we'll just move on.' He was like no, we're here and we're doing it."
Over the course of the summer Barnes' shooting did even out, McMains said. He's not an NBA shooter yet, that's a term McMains reserves for a select few elite scorers, but Barnes is improved. He's learning to look for his shot more and get to his spots a little more, something he's a little unaccustomed to doing coming from Florida State and being such an unselfish player in FSU's unorthodox offensive system.
"He's a team-first guy, which is great, like you want that in your star, but he's got to be able to call his own number at times," Turner said. "It's kind of like a young Andre Iguodala. That's a guy who I used and even told him like I see a lot of young Andre Iguodala. He was naturally unselfish and a team-first guy, but it didn't mean that, you know, eventually he had to take over at times."
If any organization is going to get Barnes to that point it's the Raptors. That's why those around Barnes were so excited by the selection. This had been their hope since the lottery first came out, Macon said. When the Raptors moved up from No. 7 to No. 4 at the NBA Lottery, Macon said he and Barnes circled Toronto as the ideal landing spot.
"They're so good at developing like these long, athletic guards, I mean positionless players like Siakam and OG," Macon said. "He also knew how good they are at developing talent ... and we knew if he could just show who he is he'd have an amazing chance at No. 4."
When Raptors president Masai Ujiri came down to introduce himself following Barnes' workout last month, Barnes' group knew it was a good sign.
Now it's just about getting Barnes to a point where he's a little bit more comfortable getting his shots off. If things break right, and by all accounts they will considering Barnes' work ethic, Toronto will have another one of these modern NBA freaks on their hands, the kind of supersized quasi-point guard who can create problems on both ends of the court.