Diary of a genius: Scottie Barnes is inventing new ways to finish

Scottie Barnes has unlimited options as a finisher. On the nuance of his choices, and how he can mix and match around the rim.

“Oh, f*ck,” says Bunk, wistful and sad at first, looking at photos of the victim. “Motherf*cker.”

Several interjectory “f*cks,” as companions to laying down photos or circling a spot on the wall. The start of the work.

“F*ck!” spits out McNulty, who snapped his finger with a tape measurer. 

A head-shaking “f*ck” as correction -- the weapon is held at the wrong height. Some quiet ones during the search for the bullet, not meant, McNulty probably not even aware he’s speaking.

An aghast “motherf*ck” from Bunk as a realization. Some with surprise, then. With intent. The pace quickening, time starting to matter in the word for the first time. 

A proud “f*cking eh” as the work pays off and McNulty sees where the bullet entered the fridge. An angry one when he can’t dig it out. Then sober and serious when he pulls out the bullet: “motherf*cker” -- we got this guy.

“F*ck me,” says Bunk, impressed with their work.

The brief moment of investigation from The Wire might have seemed like a joke on the surface when you watch the show, but in reality it is an ideal representation of the truth that the same thing can have entirely different meanings in a new context, from moment to moment. Of the concept of the depth behind singularities. One word? Infinite meanings, infinite depths, like a black hole. The f*ck scene is an ideal representation, but it’s not the only one. 

Scottie Barnes might seem normal on the surface, good but nothing special, around the rim. But that’s only on the surface. In reality, much like the f*ck scene, there is infinite depth to the singularity that is Barnes’ finishing. He is creative to the point of absurdity -- much like he is in passing the basketball

This is the third entry in my series this season about Scottie Barnes’ brilliance. The first was about his extraordinary passing, and the music of Arnold Schoenberg. The second was about his screening and movement inside the arc.

On the surface, Barnes has made the 25th most shots in the league from within 10 feet. That’s good! He’s shooting 55.9 percent from that range, which isn’t quite as highly ranked as his total makes, but is still impressive. (He was at 59.8 percent last season.) 

But if you look further and further into the heart of Barnes’ finishing, all you can see is more and more complexity. There is no gather he won’t try, no combination of moves to set up the finish, no hand stronger than the other, and no release point out of the realm of possibility for him. As a result of such diversity, Barnes can choose from several dozen possibilities at any one time, the basketball version of Everything, Everywhere, All at Once.

(Just as an organizational note, this piece originally had way, way too many video clips. Like, 50 or so. Just to make this piece readable, I buried a number of video examples in hyperlinks that take you clips of the finishes I’m discussing. Feel free to burrow through those hyperlinks to get to all those sweet, sweet videos.)

Because Barnes’ finishing is so compartmented, let’s organize this thing going from out to in. Let’s start, then, with gathers. Barnes of course is an equal opportunity as a jumper, able to achieve great burst either as a two-footed jumper or one-footed. (And, from among those one-footed clips, he can jump off either foot and finish with either hand.) In part because of his versatility as a jumper, he’s 32nd in dunks so far on the year. While his feet are moving towards the rim, he brings the ball with him in a number of ways, including dribbling (duh), running-back carries protecting the ball, or even fancy one-hand gathers like he’s Steve Nash.

When he gets to the rim, he has a “keep you guessing” quality to his game that empowers stardom. (Not so say that Barnes is Giannis Antetokounmpo, obviously, but Antetokounmpo is perhaps the best example of a player being able to be ‘big’ at the rim and power through opponents or be ‘thin’ at the rim and avoid contact altogether. The ability to do both keeps opponents guessing.) Barnes has a similar quality to his game, able to power through a crowd or get thin to catalyze his finishing instead.

Barnes also has extraordinary double clutch ability to not avoid contact but rather avoid contests. Again: he’s ambidextrous as a finisher after double clutches.

Rarely does Barnes repeating a gather mean he’s going to repeat the finish. As if he’s selecting skills in a video game, he can mix and match at will. A euro step can mean one thing in one play and a completely different thing in another. Of his euro finishes, in the clip against the Brooklyn Nets, a euro step means creating contact to shed a defender, resulting in a dunk with a release point inside his body. Against the Sacramento Kings, a euro step means avoiding contact for a release point as far outside the body as possible. 

6 thoughts on “Diary of a genius: Scottie Barnes is inventing new ways to finish”

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