Maybe Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster, and the Toronto Raptors actually know what they're doing.
It seemed almost unthinkable nine months ago when the organization shocked the NBA world by drafting the unrefined, offensively challenged, non-shooting Scottie Barnes fourth overall ahead of Jalen Suggs last July. Nearly every mock draft and draft prognosticator had Suggs, the Gonzaga Bulldogs guard who'd blossomed into a superstar during March Madness, ahead of Barnes, a 6-foot-7 wing out of Florida State.
Yet in Barnes, the Raptors saw a special talent. They saw someone who fit perfectly into their unusual roster of versatile wings who could switch one through five and do a little bit of everything on the offensive end. Sure, he wasn't much of a scorer in college, but Toronto has never shied away from drafting players with offensive question marks.
“First and foremost, we love Scottie as a player and as a person, so I think that's the biggest one for us,” Webster said on draft night. “We think Scottie has a great chance to help us in summer league, in training camp, during the season, one year from now, two years from now, five years from now.”
They were right.
On Friday, the Raptors found out Barnes was named the NBA's Rookie of the Year in a message delivered at practice by former Rookie of the Year and Raptors legend Vince Carter.
"That's a big award, that's one of the biggies," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "It was cool. It was, you guys probably saw it, we were getting ready to watch film before in practice and the Vince Carter message came up and we didn't get to hear it when he kind of said there's only three people that have ever won this award me, Damon, and you. The guys were all over him and we didn't hear the rest of the message and, so that was pretty cool."
For Barnes, it was the culmination of years of hard work and a goal he'd set for himself coming into the season. He was open about it right from the beginning. He wasn't going to chase the award to the detriment of the year, but he certainly wanted it.
"It's important for me to try to win Rookie of the Year to start my legacy off right," he said back in January.
Then it happened.
"I was just super, happy, of course at the news," he said Saturday evening after the league revealed that he'd officially won the award. "It was a goal of mine all year to try to win it, but I didn't really try to overthink it or try to do so much. I just played my role, did what I had to do, and winning helps with it as well."
That's what makes Barnes so special. Everyone in the NBA is talented, but not everyone has the combination of physical gifts, skill, and work ethic that lead to the kind of success Barnes has already created for himself.
"Some of the things he’s able to do at his size and his ability is going to keep him in this league for a long, long time," said 14-year NBA veteran Thad Young. "The stuff he brings to the game, the intangibles that he has, the ability that he has, he’s a very special player.
"You don’t usually see guys like that who have that work ethic sometimes.”
Since the turn of the century, 16 of the last 21 Rookie of the Year recipients have gone on to make at least one All-Star game and nearly half of those are shoo-ins to be Basketball Hall of Famers one day.
Will Barnes live up to that potential is, of course, yet to be determined. But with the developmental staff in Toronto, the work ethic he possesses, and the skills he's already shown in Year 1, there's really no ceiling on who this player will one day become.