The Biomechanics of Scottie Barnes

8 mins read

There are always little indicators for why players move the way they do, and why it’s advantageous. It’s never fully predictive, anyone can move in any shape or manner – within reason – but, it helps to be able to identify the biomechanics and how it drives certain playstyles.

This is something very specific, so if you like that stuff strap in. I had a conversation with a wonderful M.D. who goes by the moniker @polarfall on twitter, where he posts his thoughts about how biomechanics may aid or limit certain players. For a fresh take, we talked about Scottie Barnes.

Folk: Scottie Barnes, biomechanics, what’s the intro?

Polar: Defensively, stance distance is key for him. He’s at his best when he’s able to use his long strides, and he’s at his least explosive when his feet are positioned closely to one another – this is also true of OG Anunoby. 

We can see here that Scottie’s burst is underwhelming with his feet close together, and he tries to adjust by getting long in close quarters – to no avail. Contrast this with a play where he gets to take big steps horizontally across the court (in open space) before using a terrific sense of where his defender is, and a spin that relies on those big swinging steps to transport him to the rim for a dunk. 

Folk: Why do you think this is the case with Scottie?

Polar: Good question. There’s a few things: Core strength, long legs, and a small waist. All of that creates unique body proportions that create different physical outcomes. This leads to Scottie excelling when he’s making big, long moves, rather than elaborate moves. 

Folk: Are there counters you’ve seen other players with these mechanics use?

Polar: OG Anunoby uses skip steps. Rather than moving each leg independently in small, close ways, he creates momentum and burst by introducing a skip. 

We can see here that OG uses skip steps to navigate closely contested areas when long steps aren’t available to him. In particular, the drive from the 45 or baseline to the opposite side of the bucket + the dumpoff pass is something you can see happen in basically every game he plays in – whether it results in a bucket or not.

Folk: How might this make defense more difficult for him?

Polar: He’ll be less explosive when he has to turn on his axis. For example, fighting through a pick n’ roll when he’s guarding the ball handler, or trailing/chasing players around screens. It could also show up if he’s playing the anchor of drop coverage – he might not be on balance when backpedaling. 

Lonzo Ball’s poor decision making means this play is unremarkable, but Scottie’s point of attack defense leads to a 2-on-1 situation for the Bulls.

While both of the off-ball defensive plays reflect poorly on Barnes’ awareness, that should improve, and it speaks volumes that his length allows him to register quality contests on both shots. When he’s more comfortable guarding in space, his body will allow him to dominate these actions. 

Folk: And what are the benefits?

Polar: He should be really strong in isolation defense against big ball handlers, where he can maintain his stance and play defense with his long strides, and can catch up with sidesteps. He should also be really good stunting at the nail or doubling in the post where drastic lunges (stunting) out of his long and quick stance allow him to cover a lot of ground. 

Folk: Do you have any thoughts about how it might affect his offense?

Polar: That’s not as clear as defense to me. There’s too many possibilities when it comes to x’s and o’s, and schemes. I will say this though, straight lines are not recommended except in transition where he’s great. There’s lots of room for him to use his long stride length without having to turn on his axis. Also, standstill initiation doesn’t seem good to me. 

Long, loping steps that jettison him toward the rim at a pace that gives defenses fits, mixed with his incredible court feel and vision as a passer, and his length as a finisher – he’s an absolute terror in the open court. It’s plain to see. 

Folk: Great point. I have heaps of clips of him initiating out of motion, because of this.

Quite simply translating his motion, length, and reads of the floor into looks for himself. His head is on a swivel, and he’s leveraging his reputation as a passer into advantages. ‘Looking’ his primary and help-side defenders out of lanes he ends up using for drives. 

Polar: He could start from the 45-extended, or from the sideline, moving into the middle. He’d also be great in Wade cuts or Corey cuts. Those really enhance his length. He can also get better at these things with improved core strength. And as a final note, he might be able to turn semi-postups into advantageous situations as a passer and scorer – something to watch for him to develop. 

A DHO keeper play, that gets Barnes a curved drive, punctuated with a dunk. A Wade cut from Anunoby, something Barnes should be able to emulate, and a Corey Cut from Barnes. All good stuff.

Folk: Thanks, Polar.

Polar: Have a good day. 

Sincerely hope you enjoyed this alternate look at some of what makes Scottie Barnes go. It’s also important to note that these are reads and interpretations that are being made by a practiced eye when it comes to biomechanics, but players transcend this stuff all the time. In no way is Polar putting a hard cap on anything that Barnes will be able to do at any point in his career.

Once again, you can find Polar @polarfall on twitter.

Have a blessed day.


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