RAPTORS BLOG: Barnes making fastest impact as rookie since Vince and starting lineup thoughts once Siakam’s back


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Two wins, by four combined points against two struggling teams. Not a bad weekend’s work for the now over-.500 Raptors.


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And most importantly, x-rays on Scottie Barnes’s hand were negative.

Speaking of Barnes, doesn’t seem like the grind of the back-to-back got to him at all. Yet again he was the best player on the court. If you’re sensing a theme in this space, you’re on to something. Barnes is very, very good. He’s a special player.

I had asked him on Thursday how he was feeling so far, since the games and practices coming so often is new to him and much different than his college or high school workload. Barnes said he felt good and even late in the game Saturday he was still moving out there.

His second jump ability is excellent and his touch around the rim and ability to get shots off quickly, even over giants like Myles Turner, has been eye-opening.


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Of course the clip that has been circulating of him going coast-to-coast in only three dribbles was also something to see. Raptors fans have to be dancing in the streets about Barnes, the most immediately impactful rookie they’ve seen in these parts probably since Vince Carter (Chris Bosh was impressing ahead of schedule too, but not like Barnes has. Bosh looked like a good starter from Day 1, but didn’t give a lot of hints of how good he was going to be eventually, but Barnes already looks and plays like an all-star).

No Goran Dragic, even with Fred VanVleet playing a ton of highly physical minutes and even with VanVleet getting into some early foul trouble. Interesting. I’d asked Nick Nurse about Dragic on Friday and he said they are in constant communication and Dragic needs to stay ready. But this saga is likely going one way, he’ll either be traded or bought out. The Raptors did that sign-and-trade to help out Kyle Lowry and to get Precious Achiuwa. Dragic was just to make the salaries work. He’s a great guy and a good veteran presence, but he wasn’t playing well and there’s no long-term fit. In six weeks a lot more players will be trade eligible (off-season free agent signings), which could make a Dragic trade much easier to pull off. Failing that, I’d expect a buyout.


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One game after the first 50% shooting performance of the year by the Raptors, it was back to 43% work. VanVleet (and others) aren’t thrilled about how physical the game is this year with referees largely swallowing their whistles as part of the NBA’s efforts to get foul-baiting out of the game. As VanVleet said though, they’ve over-corrected and you can expect things to stabilize as the season moves along.

Will have much more on starting lineup thoughts in the coming days and weeks but my initial thought is Nurse has no perfect options once Pascal Siakam returns. There’s no way you can make Barnes a sixth man, even though that was his role even as the star at Florida State. You can’t make Siakam, the team’s most decorated and highest-paid player come off the bench, outside of possibly for a few games as he gets used to playing again. Taking out VanVleet is obviously an impossibility, as is removing OG Anunoby. That leaves Gary Trent, who has been excellent in a starting role after not doing nearly as much as a reserve. Trent’s a great fit in all kinds of ways, but struggling to find a way it isn’t him. The issues with the obvious choice, Precious Achiuwa, is you can’t play Siakam or Anunoby big minutes at centre all season because they’ll be worn out and possibly hurt going against the league’s behemoths all the time. And you can’t play Achiuwa, Khem Birch (who I’d start) and Chris Boucher as reserves. It just won’t work.

But Nurse is far more creative than me. We’ll see what he comes up with whenever Siakam is ready.


1- Scottie Barnes

2- Domantas Sabonis

3- Fred VanVleet


1- Scottie Barnes

2- Fred VanVleet

3- Cole Anthony



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