Checking in on the Scottie Barnes at point guard experiment

Scottie Barnes has spent a lot of time at point guard. For the better or the worse?

It didn’t take long for the Toronto Raptors to play to the trope that super sophomore Scottie Barnes would be playing point guard for the team. On media day, 2022 -- a day usually reserved for good fits and bad jokes and little more -- Nick Nurse said “I hear he’s a point guard” when asked about Barnes. Later: “He's kind of an organizing, pass-first type of guy… He likes that position, point guard. He likes that behind his name. So we'll see if we can develop that out a little bit.”

When Barnes himself was asked about Nurse’s words? “I’ve always been a point guard,” he said. “I always had those point guard things, but 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. But I always been seeing myself as a point guard.”

Indeed, Barnes does have extraordinary passing vision and ability. He is a great communicator and organizer. Those floor-general-type skills he has in spades. But there are many more required skills to existing as a point guard in the NBA that he didn’t list on media day. 

Now most of the way through the 2022-23 season, Barnes has had plenty of chances playing point guard for the Raptors. With Fred VanVleet currently out for personal reasons, Barnes has been starting -- and the Raptors have been more or less winning. How has the experiment gone? 

Perhaps most importantly, the Raptors have had terrible trouble scoring the basketball with Barnes at point guard. Broadly, the offense has sputtered to 110.2 points per 100 possessions with Barnes on the court and none of VanVleet, Malachi Flynn, Dalano Banton, or Jeff Dowtin jr. (With VanVleet alongside Barnes, the offense is more than 10 points per 100 possessions better, at 120.7.) And the offense was equally miserable last season without a point guard.

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