That left the Toronto Raptors at No.4, ready to hold on to uniform expectations for one more pick or reignite the chaos of the big night.
The vast majority of draft talent assessors rated Gonzaga goaltender Jalen Suggs as the fourth best player in this class, and I would certainly agree with that notion. To be completely honest, I didn’t understand what was preventing the Raptors from making their decision to select Suggs. With the greatest player in franchise history, Kyle Lowry ready to hit the unrestricted free agent market, Suggs seemed like the inevitable heir to fill his shoes. Had Lowry gone into free agency, the transition would have been smooth, as Suggs possesses similar leadership qualities with a winner mentality that echoes that of the six-time All-Star and one-time NBA champion.
I figured that once the Raptors were on the clock, all the typical pre-draft smokescreens would wear off and they would pick their future playmaker over Suggs. Until NBA commissioner Adam Silver stepped onto the podium:
With the fourth pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Toronto Raptors select … Scottie Barnes, Florida State University.
After a virtual 2020 NBA Draft due to the coronavirus pandemic, fans were back and heavily invested in one of the events of the NBA season, and you could to feel the collective audible gasp of surprise from the crowd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Immediately I knew I wasn’t the only one who was genuinely surprised that Toronto chose to go with Barnes over Suggs.
Right after hearing his name called, with unanimous shock still in the air in the arena, Barnes hugged some of his loved ones before doing a few dance steps to the song blaring through the speakers: « What’s Next, ”the hit song by Raptors Global Ambassador Drake.
– The jump on ESPN (@NBATheJump) July 30, 2021
It was then that one could feel the change of energy in the building. Fans went from confused happiness to static happiness for the 19-year-old who just realized his lifelong dream, and I was there with them.
Funny as it sounds, it was during this change of momentum that I realized the Raptors had made the right choice.
During the pre-draft process, a few terms that constantly surrounded Barnes were: contagious energy, hard work, vocal leader, and great teammate, to name a few. I was able to witness the ‘contagious energy’ portion in real time, as Barnes’ liveliness rubs off all over the building in a way that I guess does on the basketball court and in the locker room.
And once the dust settles and he jumps into his post-project interviews, he’s reiterated a lot of those things about himself when explaining what he’ll bring to the Raptors organization.
“I just wanna be awesome. I’m just a great person, I’m a great teammate, I’m a great player, I want to be known for someone who just puts in the time, puts in the work, someone is great, that does it all ”, Barnes told the media. “In pursuit of greatness, I’m going to keep working, staying in the gym, I just want to leave this legacy that I’m this guy that I can truly be. “
Barnes said he had no idea where he was going to be selected until dark, but after being picked by the Raptors at No.4, he believes Toronto is an ideal culture for him.
“I would say I fit in perfectly,” Barnes said of the Raptors. “Just what their whole game plan is based on. They start with a defensive mindset, a defensive mindset, I feel like I belong to this program. So I would just say that I can fit in perfectly, do different things to help other people, other people can help me. I feel like I belong. “
It’s hard to disagree with the Florida State product.
At 6ft 8in, 225lb with a 7ft 2in wingspan, Barnes’ stature screams versatility. He plays like a point guard in the body of a powerful striker, with exceptional ball handling and passing skills for not only a player of his size, but a player of any size. His length, his build and his attitude allow him to really defend positions 1 to 5, taking up all the challenges that are asked of him.
He can run the offense with players like Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and, potentially, restricted free agent Gary Trent Jr. around him, or play the ball while VanVleet (or Lowry) is running the show. And as his rookie year approaches, he could be immediately called upon to take on a bigger role than expected, with All-Star striker Siakam set to miss the start of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery in June.
But before I get caught thinking too far into the future, the focus remains on the present. Even though I thought Suggs was the right selection going into the draft, I very quickly established myself on Barnes as a player who couldn’t be a better representative of what it means to be a Toronto Raptor.
After seeing what head coach Nick Nurse said in his post-draft media availability, it seems he feels the same when watching his practices with the team.
“He’s a multi-faceted, multi-position, two-way player… He’s a great choice for us,” said Nurse, according to TSN’s Josh Lewenberg. “He really has a magnetic personality. He’s got a high energy personality… He’s a great communicator and he has a passion to win. “
The nurse also preached about how Barnes’ work ethic reminds him of Siakam and Anunoby, and that relentless effort was captured immediately when Choice # 4 was made. late to its first official team media availability because he got caught in traffic on his way home after a practice session at 8am the day after his draft.
That’s the type of player the Raptors got with pick # 4.
So while there will likely be understandable frustrations about passing Suggs (especially if Lowry chooses to go elsewhere in free agency), Raptors fans will have no choice but to embrace the prospect that their favorite team has selected.
Scottie Barnes will win the hearts of the nation with his selfless impact on winning, his relentless desire to improve his game, and his transcendent passion for uplifting everyone around him.
I didn’t know it before the draft, but I realize it now: The Raptors got their guy with the No.4 pick.
The opinions on this page do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its clubs.