Most of us remember our first few years in the game, and how special they were. Whether it was playing with friends or even just doing something you loved to do for fun … there’s nothing like watching your skills improve thanks to practice. Everyone has experienced this feeling at some point in their lives, so why is this more relevant than ever?
In this case, it may not matter that Kyle Busch is only 25 years old. He’s been a champion his entire life and he’s still going to be better than anyone else in the sport of NASCAR racing.
Kevin Durant is no stranger to the offensive game. The Brooklyn Nets superstar is one of the finest scoring forwards in NBA history, with height, length, and shooting skill that are almost unrivaled. It’s only natural that KD can see a great defender when he sees one, and based on his admiration for Toronto Raptors youngster Scottie Barnes, the leading contender for Rookie of the Year has a bright future ahead of him.
Durant scored 31 points in a 116-103 victory against Toronto on Nov. 7. For the former MVP, it’s just another day at the workplace.
Barnes finished the game with a total of eight points.
Still, KD saw enough in the rookie to fawn over him, and his postgame remarks should send chills down the spines of opposing offenses.
For the Toronto Raptors, Scottie Barnes has been a nice surprise.
The Toronto Raptors’ Scottie Barnes watches a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. | Mark Blinch/Getty Images
After a one-and-done season at Florida State, Barnes was selected fourth overall in the 2021 draft. He had never been recognized as a scorer in college, or even in high school. As a defender and playmaker, he was always more like Draymond Green.
The 20-year-old, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighs 225 pounds, came into the league with an NBA-ready frame and an NBA-ready skill set — but only in certain areas.
From the start, the Florida native was anticipated to be a solid defender. He was long, powerful, had the appropriate temperament, and was smart enough to succeed on that end of the floor straight away.
Barnes was also regarded as an excellent facilitator. He was really selfless. In reality, his greatest flaw entering the NBA was that he didn’t appear to have much aggressiveness or a go-to scoring technique.
Scouts, on the other hand, seem to have undervalued his offensive game, as the dynamic winger is virtually as good on that end of the floor as he is on the defensive end.
Despite his terrible statistical night, Kevin Durant lavished praise on Barnes.
In a 13-point defeat to the Nets, the Montverde Academy graduate had eight points, seven rebounds, and four assists. He only tried seven shots in almost 30 minutes of play. He didn’t even make it to the free-throw line.
That particular game did not serve as a fantastic illustration of Barnes’ scoring ability.
He did, however, have five thefts and just one turnover.
As the rookie learns how and when to score in the NBA, he’s already shown that he can be counted on to do precisely what he did against Brooklyn: work hard, think smartly, and defend.
All of these things attracted Durant’s attention during his postgame press conference, according to NBA.com:
“There are a lot of people that want to compete and win, but Scottie Barnes stands out because of his game IQ, his length, and his excitement for the game.”
“When you see him play, all of it pours through.” He makes winning basketball plays and you can see he simply wants to be there for his teammates.
“I believe a lot of young kids in the league have that competitive fire, but he has something additional in terms of perceiving the game a bit slower, which is unique for a guy, how old is he 19, 20,?” Sheesh.
“He understands how to play the game properly, and he’ll only grow better.”
Kevin Durant on Scottie Barnes of the Toronto Raptors
Toronto is being surprised by the NBA thanks to the Florida State product.
Kyle Lowry, the Raptors’ franchise leader, left for the Miami Heat in free agency. Until the Brooklyn game, Pascal Siakam has not played this season. So far, Toronto has put forth a team effort, but Barnes has stolen the show.
He has the most minutes and rebounds among all rookies, as well as being second in field-goal %, third in steals, and tied for third in blocks.
Barnes’ most unexpected statistic to this far is that he leads all rookie scorers with 16.6 points per game. He’s averaging at least three points per game more than Cade Cunningham, Jalen Suggs, and Jalen Green, the draft’s top three offensive talents.
The Raptors aren’t a championship contender. They’re 6-5 and in ninth place in the East. Nonetheless, Toronto has been a nice surprise to begin the season, and their pleasant-surprising rookie is spearheading the charge.
NBA.com provided all data.
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