Scottie Barnes

Raptors Notes: Lineup, Schröder, Trent, Siakam, Gueye

Prior to Friday’s game against Charlotte, Eric Koreen of The Athletic and Blake Murphy of both made the case that the Raptors should make a lineup change. Koreen advocated for Gary Trent Jr. to replace Dennis Schröder in the starting five, with Murphy acknowledging that’s the “most obvious immediate move.”

The logic, as Murphy explains, is that the trio of Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes would benefit from playing with at least one outside shooter, if not two. Instead, the three forwards have spent most of the season alongside Schröder, an inconsistent marksman (he’s at 33.3% on threes this season) and Jakob Poeltl, a non-shooter. The five-man unit had a minus-3.1 net rating entering Friday, which isn’t acceptable for the team’s top lineup, writes Murphy.

However, head coach Darko Rajakovic stuck with his usual group against the Hornets. The starting five spent 17 minutes on the floor together and was outscored by three points during that time while making just 2-of-11 outside shots. The rest of the Raptors’ lineups played Charlotte to a draw, but the starters’ three-point deficit was ultimately reflected in the final score: Toronto lost 119-116 to fall to 9-13 on the season.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • The Raptors are at a familiar crossroads, according to Michael Grange of, who says the team has failed to properly judge the level of its roster and where it stands relative to its competition in recent years. The franchise can’t afford to make that mistake again and will need to be prepared to make difficult personnel decisions at this season’s trade deadline, Grange writes.
  • Josh Lewenberg of explores the same subject as Grange, suggesting that time is running out for the current roster to prove it deserves to be kept intact. Within his story, Lewenberg cites league sources who say the Raptors still haven’t opened extension negotiations with Siakam but also haven’t discussed him in trade talks since the summer. Siakam will be an unrestricted free agent in 2024.
  • Mouhamadou Gueye has gotten off to a strong start for the Raptors 905 this season, averaging 15.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in 32.4 minutes per game through his first nine contests with Toronto’s G League affiliate. Gueye would’ve been the most logical in-house candidate to fill the two-way contract slot that opened when the Raptors waived Ron Harper Jr., according to Murphy, but he’s currently dealing with a neck injury. Using that two-way spot to sign Jontay Porter away from another organization will provide the banged-up 905 with some additional depth.

Atlantic Notes: Barnes, Maxey, Embiid, Thomas, Porzingis

The Raptors still appear to be figuring out their identity, trying to navigate their path through player development while simultaneously attempting to win now, according to The Athletic’s Eric Koreen. In order to fully develop budding star Scottie Barnes, Toronto needs to better optimize the lineups it is running, Koreen writes.

Koreen observes Toronto’s lineups with cramped spacing aren’t doing much to advance Barnes’ development. Instead of having the opportunity to kick the ball out to shooters, Barnes is sometimes featured in lineups with multiple players who are not feared from beyond the arc.

Barnes also isn’t yet confident enough to singlehandedly run the floor and lineups that feature him and OG Anunoby as the only starters have struggled, per Koreen. Koreen acknowledges this is more of a roster construction issue than a minute-distribution issue, but suggests changes. Otto Porter Jr. is a player mentioned who could help alleviate spacing issues.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Tyrese Maxey continues to play at a superstar level for the Sixers, averaging 27.0 points and 6.7 assists through his first 18 games. Appearing on NBA Today (YouTube link), ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said Maxey’s development is one of the biggest storylines of the season and speculates that it may just keep Joel Embiid in Philadelphia for the long run. Windhorst says Maxey’s play is keeping the Sixers in title contention despite trading James Harden and because of their play, the chatter from fans and media surrounding Embiid potentially wanting out is dying down.
  • The Nets are faced with a difficult decision regarding their starting lineup after a strong 26-point return from injury from Cam Thomas, writes the New York Post’s Mark W. Sanchez. Thomas began the season on the bench but was quickly inserted into the starting lineup due to his impressive scoring (26.8 PPG). After missing nine straight games due to injury, he was brought off the bench. But because the Nets’ offense runs through him, they’ll likely look to move him into the starting lineup again, meaning Cameron Johnson, Spencer Dinwiddie or Dorian Finney-Smith are candidates to be benched moving forward, according to Sanchez.
  • Celtics forward Kristaps Porzingis hasn’t played since Nov. 24 and while he still isn’t practicing, he’s been out on the court, tweets The Athletic’s Jared Weiss. Porzingis’s status remains up in the air for Boston’s in-season tournament quarterfinal on Monday against the Pacers. In 15 games this season, Porzingis has averaged 18.9 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Raptors Notes: Barnes, Roster, Siakam, Young, Achiuwa

Raptors forward Scottie Barnes has playing his best pro basketball yet for Toronto this season, but the club still needs to determine how to maximize his unique skill set, opines Michael Grange of

Grange notes that Barnes has shown marked growth following an at-times disengaged sophomore season in 2022/23. Barnes’ multifaceted game and positional flexibility make him an intriguing young star in the making, albeit one who needs well-curated help to flourish.

“[His versatility] is good but at the same time it’s a problem because he has so many traits, so many things that he can do on a higher level,” head coach Darko Rajakovic said.

Through 15 games this season, Barnes is averaging 19.7 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 5.7 APG, 1.7 SPG and 1.3 BPG.

There’s more out of Toronto:

  • Former Raptors GM Jeff Weltman was let out of his contract with Toronto in order to assume the mantle of Magic team president in 2017. In the intervening seasons, it’s become clear that Weltman is taking a lot of the lessons he learned under the tutelage of Raptors president Masai Ujiri to heart, writes Blake Murphy of Murphy sees several parallels between the constructions of both rosters. When drafting, both teams prioritize size and length, forgoing normal conceptions of position in favor of athletes with epic wingspans. That said, Eric Koreen of The Athletic opines that the Raptors’ forwards aren’t getting enough personnel help elsewhere from the front office.
  • When the Raptors appeared to be slipping early in the 2023/24 season, All-Star power forward Pascal Siakam did his best to steer the club away from a possible return to the bad vibes of last year’s lottery team, writes Koreen in a separate piece. Siakam’s aggressive and prolific play has helped paper over some careless in-game errors from his teammates, Koreen notes.
  • Raptors forwards Thaddeus Young and Precious Achiuwa are both questionable to play in Friday’s matchup against the Bulls, reports Murphy (Twitter link). Young has an illness, while Achiuwa is dealing with a knee injury.

Raptors Notes: Siakam, Barnes, Dick, Winslow

While fellow Raptors forwards Scottie Barnes and OG Anunoby seem to have adjusted quickly to new head coach Darko Rajakovic‘s offensive system, Pascal Siakam has taken longer to get going this fall. That’s why Siakam’s 31-point, 12-rebound showing in a road victory over Dallas on Wednesday was such an encouraging sign, writes Michael Grange of

Prior to Wednesday’s win, Siakam had averaged just 15.4 PPG and 6.1 RPG on 41.2% shooting in Toronto’s first seven games, well below his averages in recent years. Rajakovic, who spoke before Wednesday’s game about his belief in Siakam, predicted that a breakout was coming.

“It’s the start of the year, it’s a different style of play, he’s going through adjustments, but at the same time he is really trying to do the right thing. He’s trying to move the ball, he’s trying to find his teammates and that kind of took away a little bit from his aggressiveness,” the first-year coach said, per Grange. “The last two days I’ve talked to him like, ‘You better be aggressive first.’ Aggressive to score, aggressive to attack the rim, to shoot the ball. … I think very soon, hopefully tonight, he’s going to take off.”

It’s a big year for both the Raptors and Siakam, who will be an unrestricted free agent next July if he doesn’t sign an extension before then. With Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. among the team’s other key players eligible for 2024 free agency, Toronto will have to use this season to determine which pieces are long-term keepers.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Barnes’ strong start to the season seemed “inseparable” from Siakam’s struggles, according to Danny Chau of The Ringer, who says that figuring out whether those two forwards can coexist and thrive alongside one another is atop Toronto’s 2023/24 to-do list.
  • In a pair of articles for The Athletic, Eric Koreen takes a closer look at the Raptors’ developmental plan for lottery pick Gradey Dick and considers which of the club’s early-season trends should be taken most seriously. Koreen notes that Toronto ranks in the bottom third of the league in both defensive rebounding and free throw attempts, and suggests those trends may be difficult to reverse.
  • When he decided to play in the G League this season, Justise Winslow viewed the Raptors’ organization as a good fit for his skill set, given the team’s fondness for lengthy, versatile forwards, writes Blake Murphy of One of the Raptors 905’s affiliate players, Winslow is still rehabbing an ankle injury from last season and won’t be available when the team’s season gets underway on Friday, though he’s doing contact drills and is enthusiastic about nearing the end of the rehab process. “I’m doing really well, man,” Winslow said. “Attacking this rehab process every day, you know, doing things that help me mentally stay in a good place and, you know, find peace and stay patient within the journey. So, it’s been a really good process.”

Atlantic Notes: Barnes, O. Porter, Oubre, D. White

While the Raptors have been up and down so far this season, they’ve gotten consistent strong production from third-year forward Scottie Barnes, who has scored at least 17 points and grabbed eight or more rebounds in every game so far.

Through seven contests, Barnes is averaging 22.6 points, 9.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 2.1 blocks, and 1.1 steals in 36.5 minutes per night, with an impressive shooting line of .513/.421/.759. It’s a small sample, but the 22-year-old appears to be solidifying his place as the franchise’s long-term cornerstone, says Michael Grange of

“What stands out? Everything!” one scout said in a text message to Grange when asked about Barnes’ play this season. “He’s a whole different player. He’s bigger and stronger but hasn’t lost any of his mobility or agility. His shot is much, much smoother and in better balance. And most importantly he’s hungrier. He seems to be on some kind of mission.”

If Barnes’ breakout year continues, it will have a major impact on the Raptors’ roster decisions going forward, according to Josh Lewenberg of

The team will take more time to assess how its potential core pieces fit together, but for what it’s worth, Barnes and OG Anunoby have exhibited strong chemistry in the early going, posting a net rating of +21.6 together, whereas the pairing of Barnes and Pascal Siakam has “felt a bit clunkier,” Lewenberg observes. Both Anunoby and Siakam are eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2024.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Raptors forward Otto Porter Jr. missed all but nine games in his first season with the team in 2022/23, but his contributions in wins over Milwaukee and San Antonio in the last week have made it clear why Toronto wanted him in the first place, Grange writes for “He helps us so much,” Barnes said of his veteran teammate. “He’s a leader when he’s out there on the floor, talking to us, communicating, seeing those different reads, making those big-time plays on the defensive end, boxing out. He stretches the floor when he’s out there. He has so much IQ and knowledge of the game. He makes an instant impact.”
  • When Kelly Oubre moved into the Sixers‘ starting lineup to replace P.J. Tucker, head coach Nick Nurse warned that it may be temporary. However, Philadelphia has won all three games with Oubre as a starter and he has averaged 17.0 PPG on 52.8% shooting in that role, so Nurse appears to be in no rush to change things up. “(It’s) kind of probably silly to just make changes or use somebody else or change the rotation if the information is good, right?” Nurse said on Monday (Twitter link via Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer). “So on we go with evaluating it.”
  • Celtics guard Derrick White is listed as probable to play in Wednesday’s showdown vs. Philadelphia after missing a pair of games due to the birth of his son. According to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston, while White’s absence was brief, he was clearly missed — his +28.2 net rating so far this season is the best mark of any NBA player who has averaged at least 20 minutes per game.

Atlantic Notes: Batum, Morris, Barnes, Celtics’ Reserves, Nets

It’s a mixed bag in terms of the availability of the players the Sixers acquired in the James Harden deal, Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets.

Nicolas Batum remains away from the team for personal reasons and coach Nick Nurse is unsure when he’ll return, while Marcus Morris is still ramping up after being out of the Clippers’ rotation. However, Robert Covington and KJ Martin have a chance to be in the Sixers’ rotation for the team’s game against Phoenix on Saturday.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Coming off a disappointing second NBA season, Raptors forward Scottie Barnes appears to be making major strides, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Barnes has been a steady force thus far while averaging 21.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists and shooting 52.6% from the field. While at times he’s tried to do too much, Barnes has also been a factor defensively, Koreen notes.
  • Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla organized a film session for his struggling bench on Tuesday and it paid off on Wednesday, as the backups lifted the team in a 155-point explosion against Indiana. The bench contributed 63 points. “I just thought we played with more of a sense of purpose, and they managed the game in that way,” Mazzulla said to The Boston Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach (subscription required). “And there’s certain things that you can do to put yourself in a better situation in those. It’s defend without fouling, it’s limiting them to one shot, it’s not giving up transition. Those are the three things that they didn’t do in the Washington game and those are the three things that they did a great job of taking away [against the Pacers].”
  • Speaking of reserves, the Nets got similar performances from their bench in a victory over Miami on Wednesday. That group included  Armoni Brooks and Trendon Watford, making their first appearances with the Nets, and rookie second-rounder Jalen Wilson, Dan Martin of the New York Post notes. “This is a night when you see the depth and versatility of our group,’’ coach Jacque Vaughn said. “You also saw the fight and competitiveness of our group. Our pace didn’t change with subbing in guys.”

Raptors Notes: Schröder, Rajakovic, Barnes, Offense, Uzoh

After Fred VanVleet departed the Raptors in free agency, Toronto was quick to sign Dennis Schröder to a two-year, $25.4MM contract. Schroder is the only player on the Raptors who has previous experience playing for head coach Darko Rajakovic, and that connection is already paying off, TSN’s Josh Lewenberg writes.

While there was some speculation that Scottie Barnes would assume most of the play-making duties after VanVleet left, respect was high between Schröder and Rajakovic from their time together with the Thunder, where Rajakovic served as an assistant, according to Lewenberg.

[Schröder]’s an experienced point guard,” Rajakovic said. “We’re a new team, new terminology, new coaching staff. There’s so much new with our team and having somebody who’s been through different teams in that role of a point guard brings a calmness.

Through his first two games as a Raptor, Schröder has been an effective passer (17 assists), an active defender, and a sound shooter (6-of-13 from deep).

The relationship with me and Darko is great, and it’s honest,” Schröder said. “Whenever he’s got something to say he tells me, and I’ve got the same thing for him. And I think that’s what we’ve gotta do as a team, as well. When you put your egos to the side – and that’s what we did this summer with the national team – and it’s all about winning, then you can get into arguments and move on from it and get better. I think we’re moving in that direction with this team.

We have more on the Raptors:

  • The Raptors got off to a great defensive start on Wednesday when they held the Timberwolves to 94 points and they have the personnel to be one of the best in the league in that regard, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes. According to Koreen, Barnes holds the keys for the Raptors taking the next step on that end. “That’s where my game starts — on the defensive end, being able to go out there and guard anybody, taking pride in it,” the former Rookie of the Year said. “That’s just my mentality going into every game, trying to start off on defense. That leads to great offense with transition and that just leads me to stay on lockdown throughout the game.
  • While Toronto’s defense has been effective, their half-court offense looks subpar through two games, Koreen writes in another piece. The Raptors committed 21 turnovers on Friday and fell to the Bulls in overtime.
  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri and new scout Ben Uzoh have a history together, as detailed by ESPN’s Leonard Solms. Ujiri was Denver’s general manager during Uzoh’s playing career and invited him to training camp in 2012. “Our paths were actually very organically separate,” Uzoh said. “It just kind of aligned. We crossed paths initially [during] my rookie year. I was rumored to be traded to his team when he was the GM of the Nuggets… It didn’t happen, but then they signed me to a training camp opportunity. That’s when I kind of got more in touch with him and more of an up close and personal type of connection with him.

And-Ones: Extensions, Breakouts, B. Smith, Defenders

2023 set a record for rookie scale extensions, with 14 contracts signed before the October 23 deadline. Typically, rookie scale extensions go almost exclusively to stars or at least starters, but that wasn’t the case this year.

John Hollinger of The Athletic classifies it as a “middle-class revolution” with six players signing at or below the projected 2024/25 mid-level exception, and a couple others receiving slightly more than that. Several of those players come off the bench for their respective clubs.

As Hollinger writes, there are several reasons why both teams and players may have been motivated to reach new deals. For players, avoiding restricted free agency was surely a factor — Magic guard Cole Anthony and Hawks center Onyeka Okongwu recently said that was the case for them.

For teams, a salary cap that is projected to rise substantially in the coming years will help “water down” some of the contracts. Mid-sized contracts are also very useful for trade purposes, Hollinger observes, with free agency limitations likely a major consideration for the Celtics (Payton Pritchard) and Nuggets (Zeke Nnaji) due to their payrolls (both project to be over the second apron in ’24/25).

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • In another article for The Athletic, Hollinger lists 12 players he believes are primed for breakout seasons in 2023/24, with some fairly obvious choices and some under-the-radar picks as well. Nuggets guard Jamal Murray, Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga, Raptors forward Scottie Barnes and Hornets center Mark Williams are five of the players Hollinger thinks will see “big upticks in production.”
  • Former Cavaliers forward Bingo Smith has passed away at age 77, according to Tom Withers of The Associated Press. Smith played 10 season for Cleveland from 1970-80. Smith is still sixth in franchise history in points and fourth in games played, among other statistical marks. His No. 7 jersey hangs in the rafters as one of only seven players to have their number retired, Withers adds. “Bingo was always a giving teammate and one of the most fierce competitors I ever played with,” said former Cavs star and current broadcaster Austin Carr. “This is truly a sad moment in our franchise history and my heart goes out to his family.”
  • Jon Krawczynski and Josh Robbins of The Athletic ran an anonymous poll to see which players coaches identify as the best defenders in the NBA. Celtics guard Jrue Holiday was the only unanimous choice for first-team All-Defense, receiving all 12 votes. The remaining spots were filled by Jaren Jackson Jr. (forward), Brook Lopez (center), Alex Caruso (guard), OG Anunoby, and Draymond Green (the latter two tied for the second forward spot). Holiday was also third in the survey’s Defensive Player of the Year voting behind Jackson and Lopez, who finished first and second for the actual award last season. Evan Mobley, who was third in DPOY media voting last season and named first-team All-Defense, finished sixth in DPOY voting in The Athletic’s coaches poll and was second-team All-Defense.

Raptors Exercise 2024/25 Option On Scottie Barnes

The Raptors have exercised the fourth-year option on Scottie Barnes‘ rookie scale contract for the 2024/25 season, the team announced today in a press release.

Barnes’ salary for the 2023/24 season – approximately $8MM – had already been locked in. Today’s move also fully guarantees his $10,130,980 salary for ’24/25, putting him on track to become eligible for a rookie scale extension during the 2024 offseason.

Barnes, 22, earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2022 after being drafted fourth overall in 2021. He didn’t take a meaningful step forward in his second NBA season, averaging 15.3 points per game for a second straight year while his FG% (.456), 3PT% (.281), and rebounds per game (6.6) all dipped a little. However, he showed more flashes of potential as a play-maker and continued to display his defensive versatility.

The Raptors remain very high on Barnes’ long-term upside, having reportedly made him unavailable when they got involved in the Damian Lillard sweepstakes during the offseason.

Barnes’ rookie scale option was the only one Toronto had to make a decision on by the October 31 deadline, as our tracker shows.

And-Ones: Zagars, Media Rights, October Deadlines, More

Latvian guard Arturs Zagars is out for at least five months due to a knee injury, Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews reports (Twitter link). As detailed in a piece from Eurohoops, Zagars suffered the injury on October 14 while playing in Lithuania’s top league.

Zagars received NBA interest through the summer following a standout FIBA World Cup performance for Latvia. The 23-year-old guard averaged 12.4 points, 7.4 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game and set a tournament record with 17 assists in his team’s final contest. He ultimately wound up signing a three-year deal with Turkey’s Fenerbahce in September and they loaned him to the BC Wolves of Lithuania, with whom he suffered the injury.

As confirmed by Eurohoops and Urbonas, Zagars suffered an MCL injury and will undergo surgery and continue rehab in Istanbul under Fenerbahce’s medical staff.

There are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • ESPN and TNT are considering signing new media rights deals with the NBA that include fewer games per season, according to The Wall Street Journal (hat tip to RealGM). Such an agreement would allow the league’s two main broadcasting partners to continue working together at an affordable amount. It would also put the NBA in position to explore creating a packge of games for one or more streaming services, with both Amazon and Apple already expressing interest.
  • The NBA’s extension and roster cut-down deadlines are looming, and ESPN’s Bobby Marks (ESPN+ link) broke down every rookie extension and veteran extension candidate, as well as all remaining roster decisions ahead of the season. Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey, Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels and Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley are the major rookie extension candidates to watch, Marks notes, though Maxey likely won’t get a new deal. Many of the veterans facing an October 23 deadline for a contract extension, such as the BucksGiannis Antetokounmpo, are also unlikely to extend because they can earn more money by waiting until the offseason.
  • In another piece exploring the NBA’s October deadlines, Danny Leroux of The Athletic further breaks down the upcoming dates to note. Leroux points out the deadline for decisions on third- and fourth-year team options on rookie contracts is also approaching on October 31.
  • With the tip of the NBA season just days away (October 24), Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype provided a team-by-team look at which players are the most likely to earn consideration for the league’s end-of-season awards. Raptors forward Scottie Barnes gunning for Most Improved Player and Kings guard Malik Monk in the running for Sixth Man of the Year are among Gozlan’s most intriguing picks. Interestingly, Gozlan believes the Pelicans‘ best chance at earning end-of-season recognition is if Zion Williamson enters the MVP conversation.