Scottie Barnes transformed into exactly what the Raptors need

The Raptors were great last year, but they had a lot of holes. So far in 2022-23, Scottie Barnes is built to fill them.

There was almost no competitive team in the NBA last season that had such clear and identifiable weaknesses as the Toronto Raptors. The offensive problems were not hidden. The team did not drive with any modicum of success, and the Raptors weren't efficient at scoring when they reached the rim. They were not good at shooting triples, and just as significantly, they were not treated by defenders as good at shooting triples, so teams packed the paint off the ball. That created a vicious cycle with drives, making forays into the paint that much more difficult. The Raptors did not draw free throws. And they isolated close to the most often among any team yet with almost the lowest efficiency. With all that in mind, it was a wonder the Raptors were as good a team as they were. But they were decidedly a team with a round hole sitting squarely in the middle of the roster.

For a time, it seemed like Scottie Barnes might be a square peg. He entered the league without a dangerous jumpshot, and he had positional and conceptual overlap with incumbent superstar Siakam. That went out the window as soon as he stepped on the court.

It was clear that Barnes offered plenty to the Raptors. But so far this season, he has offered even more -- exactly what the Raptors need. Barnes remade his game, transforming himself into exactly the round peg Toronto requires to address its weaknesses. The solutions that Barnes embodies are uncanny.

Barnes has become a solution with the ball in his hands or otherwise. Last season, he averaged 0.86 points per possession when finishing a play in isolation. That's not great, so it makes sense that he only averaged 1.8 such possessions per game. This season he improved to about average on isolations on almost double the frequency. Outside of Pascal Siakam, the Raptors didn't have anyone last season to whom they could throw the ball and reliably expect a bucket from anywhere on the floor. Barnes has, on occasion, been a second orbital system around which the team can revolve.

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