Skip to main content

What's wrong with Scottie Barnes?

It's a question that seems to be popping up far too often these days with fingers too usually being pointed at Pascal Siakam. It's not hard to figure out why. After Barnes' historic start to the season, he's cooled off a little bit, seeing his points per game drop from 18.1 through his first seven games to 11.9 over his last nine. That drip has somewhat correlated with Siakam's return to the lineup on November 7.

But Siakam's return isn't the issue. The truth is, nothing is wrong with Scottie Barnes. He's just a rookie and development is never linear. There are, however, a few reasons for Barnes' dip that have nothing to do with Siakam's return.

1) Defenses Adjusting

The scouting report on Barnes coming into the league suggested he had no scoring ability. He was a bad shooter in college and it was logical to think that would carry over into the NBA. While that may be true from three-point range, Barnes has shown he can nail floaters and mid-range jumpers at an impressive clip.

Now, though, opposing teams have figured that out. They're not letting Barnes get to his floater as easily, forcing him to step out and take shots from further and further away. The key for Barnes will be adjusting to the adjustment and learning to nail those shots, not just for long twos, but for open threes, a skill he showed briefly on Sunday.

2) Thumb Injury

While Barnes' dip in production does correlate with Siakam's return, it also correlates with Barnes' thumb injury. Prior to the injury, he was shooting 55% from the floor. Since then, he's shot 41%. It's quite possible he's still not fully healthy and his right thumb is still frustrating him a little bit.

Recommended Articles

3) Fatigue

Barnes is 37 minutes away from surpassing the number of minutes he played all of last season at Florida State. He currently sits 20th in the NBA in minutes and there's a good chance he's just a little tired even if his youthful exuberance doesn't quite show it.

4) Luck

Barnes' box score numbers can be a little deceiving. The biggest dip in his production lately has come within the restricted area. Prior to the thumb injury, he was shooting 75% (27/36) at the rim. Since then, his shooting has dipped to 55.6% in the restricted area (25/45). Part of that so-called slump is just sheer luck.

When Barnes looked like the second coming of Giannis Antetokounmpo, more than half of those restricted area shots were either transition buckets or putback attempts, essentially hustle or luck plays. More recently, though, he's been forced to play within the offense a little more. Only about 40% of his attempts have been on putbacks or in transition. That's nothing Siakam or anyone else has changed. It's just that Toronto's transition offense hasn't been quite the same and Barnes isn't grabbing offensive boards — often his own — at the same rate.

What's Next?

The NBA is all about adjusting to the adjustment and Barnes will figure that out with time and repetition. It was never going to be as easy as it looked through that first handful of games. Barnes wasn't going to average 18 points per game for the whole season, 20 in year two, and so forth. Teams were always going to adjust, things were going to change, and he'd have to adjust back.

How he responds to this stretch will truly show what kind of rookie he'll be.

Further Reading

Kyle Lowry reiterates his desire to retire as a Raptor: 'That's My Everything'

Raptors remain focused on development as Warriors show lots of work still to be done

Fred VanVleet voices his frustration with the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict