Toronto Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has a type. Whether acquired through draft or trade, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby are cut from the same defensive mold. Long, switchable forwards that are capable of guarding many positions. Extendo arms that cause havoc for playmakers trying to find passing lanes.
Strong enough to defend bulkier players in the post while quick enough to hang with ball handlers on the perimeter. It’s what he had in mind when he drafted Bruno Caboclo all those years ago. Now, Scottie Barnes looks to continue that dynasty.
“The real love started for me when we started talking defense. They got me quick once they started telling me about their defensive mindset and the intensity they bring to it. For a guy like me, who has a passion for playing defense, and who prides himself on his versatility. That’s all I needed to hear to know this would be a great fit for both of us.”Scottie Barnes on Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster
Scottie’s recent Player’s Tribune article explains how interconnected the organization is in its mentality. The organization has shown a clear synergy over past seasons, from Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster to Nick Nurse and the coaching staff. It’s part of why he’s been able to put together three straight top-five defensive teams from 2017-2020.
Of course, personnel matters. Very few players can contain Giannis Antetokounmpo way Kawhi Leonard did in 2019. OG Anunoby, an all-defensive candidate in his own right, didn’t even play in the Raptors championship run. From a measurement perspective, Barnes is as promising as Anunoby. Expecting anyone to live up to a two-time defensive player of the year is a tall task. That said, a trio of Anunoby, Barnes, and Siakam can cause similar levels of havoc.
That’s not to discount the rim protection and help-defense of Marc Gasol. After all, shots at the rim are usually some of the most efficient in the game. We still haven’t forgotten the masterclass Gasol put on Joel Embiid. Khem Birch is a decent stopgap. But the Raptors will have to find themselves a true rim protector at some point if they want to regain elite defensive status. Still, having defenders like Barnes is essential for Nick Nurse’s swarming defensive style. The organization has faith that Barnes is the next cog in their defensive dynasty. That’s likely what they had in mind when they passed on Jalen Suggs in favor of Scottie Barnes.