Breaking News: Raptor superstar Scottie Barnes He’s out

Miami Heat v Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors were just becoming fun again. Gone were the days of trade rumors and disgruntled players, the fans were focused on pizza parties and win streaks for a new young core, centered around their franchise player Scottie Barnes. There was genuine excitement among fans to watch a team with 22 wins on the season play and grow together.

But on Friday night, that excitement was dealt a massive body blow.

Toward the end of the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors, Barnes sustained a left-hand injury and was ruled out for the rest of the game. The Raptors went on to lose the game, but that didn’t matter as much as the status update on their All-Star forward. Merely two hours after the game it was announced that Barnes had suffered a fracture to his third metacarpal bone in his left hand and is now out indefinitely.

Typically, that sort of injury depends on the route the Raptors decide to take, the severity of the injury, and whether Barnes’s hand requires surgery or not. Jeff Stotts noted yesterday that the typical timeline without surgery is about 31 days to return to basketball activity; with surgery, it’s an average of 41 days. For example, Orlando Magic big man Wendell Carter Jr suffered a similar injury earlier this year and missed 20 games through 47 games

The Raptors have 22 games left through the next six weeks, which means that Barnes likely won’t return for the rest of the season. And even if he’s able to come back for the final week, it might be in the Raptors’ best interest to shut him down to make sure that hand is healed.

Nonetheless, even if his year ends in disappointment, Barnes’s season will have still been an important one for the Raptors. The 3rd year forward turned himself into an All-Star (the second youngest in Raptors history) and put up career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, 3-point percentage and free-throw percentage. With all the changes the Raptors have gone through over the last year, they needed assurance that Barnes would turn into the star that he projected to be and this season helped provide that for the organization — and he still has a lot more room to grow.

That growth will be delayed until the off-season but… there’s still basketball to be played. And there are still other areas worth watching for the Raptors this year.

When the Raptors first acquired Immanuel Quickley, it was with the idea that he could be their point guard of the future. He was thrown to the fire in that regard, starting on day one and commanding the ship. It’s brought mixed results.

He’s developed a potent chemistry in the pick-and-roll with big-man Jakob Poeltl and Poeltl’s ability to screen and seal for Quickley has opened up his scoring game as well. Just in the 5 games post-All-Star break, IQ is putting up over 21 points while shooting better than 45% from three on nearly 10 attempts a game. He’s been lights out as a scorer and Poeltl’s been a big part of opening that up. Quickley has also helped Poeltl by finding him for dump-off passes as he rolls to the basket and it’s likely that without Barnes, the Raptors lean further into this as the foundation of their offense.

But still… lots of room to grow as a playmaker elsewhere. Quickley has struggled to keep his dribble alive when orchestrating the Raptors’ offense, so he gets stuck in the paint and is forced to kick the ball out to reset.

He’s also not making any complex reads as a playmaker, so with Barnes out, there will be ample room for him to experiment on manipulating pick-and-rolls to not only find Poeltl but to find cutters backdoor or to find shooters camped out in the corner.

Think of these next six weeks as a boot camp for Quickley to grow as a playmaker and learn how to be a starting point guard in this league.

Barrett’s Scoring Versatility

RJ Barrett has been playing some of the best basketball of his career since coming to Toronto. He’s refined his game to be a bruiser inside, barrelling his way to the rim for easy points, dominating in transition, and feasting as a cutter in the Raptors offense. But with Barnes out, there are more touches and more usage to go around and Barrett and Quickley will likely be the biggest beneficiaries.

Barrett has lived at the rim since coming to Toronto, taking 15% more of his shots there compared to when he was a Knick, and shooting 71% on those shots, nearly 13% better than when he was in New York this season. But teams are starting to take notice, sending help on drives, often crowding him once he gets into the paint.

Without Barnes, Barrett has the opportunity to experiment more as an on-ball creator and develop some counters for his potent finishing game. He’s taken a total of three (yes, three) mid-range jumpers with the Raptors and 7% fewer threes since joining the team. This is a chance for him to add some versatility and develop some counters when opposing teams know he just wants to get to the rim.

Besides, that will help open up his playmaking, which has popped off the charts since arriving in his hometown. Raptors Head Coach Darko Rajakovic likened Barrett’s game to “Manu Ginobili” and now, he has the chance to go out there and try and add a thing or two from the Argentinian legend.

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