Versatile Barnes is Raptors' 'player of the future'
TORONTO (AP) — The reigning NBA Rookie of the Year is ready to run the offense a lot more often in his second season.
Raptors star Scottie Barnes, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 225 pounds, is listed as a guard/forward on Toronto’s training camp roster and projects to be one of several super-sized point guards used to initiate the attack.
“I’ve always been a point guard, I always had those point guard things,” Barnes said Monday. “I feel like I can do it all, no matter what it is. I can play any position, so I don’t really try to limit myself to one position.”
Barnes averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 35.4 minutes per game in his first season, starting all 74 games he played. He led NBA rookies in minutes and was third in points and rebounds.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri called the versatile Barnes “one of those players of the future.”
“I don’t know how to describe him,” Ujiri said. “I don’t know what position that guy plays. He’s one of those guys who just plays basketball and is an incredible basketball player.”
Barnes said he chose to attend Florida State because they promised to let him play point guard. Raptors coach Nick Nurse is happy to let Barnes, the fourth overall pick in 2021, keep pursuing that passion as a pro.
“He’ll get some opportunities there,” Nurse said. “He likes it. He’s kind of an organizing, pass-first type of guy. He likes the position point guard, he likes that behind his name, so we’ll see if we can develop that out a little bit.”
Another thing still in development, Ujiri acknowledged, is Toronto’s title aspirations. The 2019 champions returned to the playoffs last season after a one-year absence but fell behind 3-0 before losing a six-game series to Philadelphia in the opening round.
“Are we good enough to win a championship?,” Ujiri asked. “I don’t know that we’re there yet. Are we good enough to grow and make a jump? I think so.”
When he’s not sharing the ball on offense, Barnes is just as likely to be sharing a chest bump or a smile. It’s a quality that makes him especially fun to play with, forward O.G. Anunoby said.
“He’s a very joyful person,” Anunoby said. “He gets excited not just for his success but for others’ success. We have a lot of guys like that but Scottie is fun to play with. Very unselfish and just a really talented player.”
PRAISE FOR PORTER
Toronto’s biggest offseason addition was forward Otto Porter Jr. The nine-year veteran left reigning champs Golden State to sign a two-year deal with Toronto. Nurse praised Porter for his shooting, his “unique rebounding ability,” and his championship acumen.
“It’s always good to have a veteran, it’s always good to have somebody that’s got a championship under their belt,” Nurse said. “I mean, the guy was starting in the NBA Finals last year. That’s pretty cool.”
Toronto didn’t have a player taller than 6-foot-9 last season but changed that by drafting 7-foot-1 center Christian Koloko from Arizona in the second round. Koloko was the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year as a junior last season. He led the conference and ranked 14th in the NCAA with 2.76 blocks per game, and tied a Wildcats single season record with 102 blocks.
“We’ve been asking for a big and we got one,” guard Fred VanVleet said. “He can really run, he’s athletic, he really knows how to play, he listens, asks questions. We can use him if he ends up being ready. I like what I’ve seen from him so far.”
CROSS COUNTRY TOUR
The Raptors flew west Monday to hold training camp in Victoria, British Columbia. Toronto begins its preseason schedule Sunday in Edmonton, Alberta, when the Raptors face the Utah Jazz. Toronto hosts Chicago at home on Oct. 9 and concludes the exhibition schedule in Montreal with an Oct. 14 game against Boston.
“We want to feel the love of the people of Canada because we know of the support,” Ujiri said. “It’s been a couple of years since we’ve been able to do stuff like this.”
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