With the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Toronto selected a player who fits the Raptors’ signature archetype: a versatile-and-eager project with a good work ethic, defensive intangibles and length.
At 6-foot 9, with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Barnes provides myriad possibilities that excite Raptors head coach Nick Nurse.
“He's a multi-faceted, multi-positional, two-way player... It's a great pick for us,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said.
Barnes is now slated to become the latest ‘jack-of-all-trades’ wing in the team’s recent history. Nurse also appreciates the 19-year-old’s infectious charisma.
"He really has a magnetic personality,” Nurse said. “He has a high-energy type of personality... He is a great communicator and has a passion for winning."
Over the last few weeks, the rumor mill was churning and leaks indicated that the Raptors had been taking a closer look at Barnes.
Jalen Suggs was the assumed choice at No. 4 on countless mock drafts, presenting as the most linear positional fit. Since recent rumblings suggest that Kyle Lowry’s departure is almost inevitable, Suggs seemed to be the natural replacement guard with his two-way talent and history of embracing the spotlight in the tensest moments.
Jalen Suggs' all-time game-winner against UCLA called by Gonzaga's IMG radio team of Tom Hudson and Adam Morrison (yes, that Adam Morrison): pic.twitter.com/DBtqdFjenL— Brian Fonseca (@briannnnf) April 4, 2021
It’s tempting to criticize Toronto for choosing to bypass what was seen as the consensus choice, but the organization’s confidence in Barnes, coupled with their record for drafting overlooked gems, suggests his game will translate well into the league.
Coach Nurse also cited a "combination of size, length, two-way [ability], possible potential down the road" as qualities that stood out about Barnes in comparison to his peers that were considered.
Again, textbook Raptor stuff.
Toronto entered Thursday’s draft with their first top-five pick since selecting Jonas Valančiūnas at No. 5 in 2011. How they fell into possession of the fourth overall pick was a little untraditional. Following a disappointing start to the 2020-21 regular season, Toronto couldn’t find footing, continuously struggling with obstacles that disrupted their season. There was their relocation to Tampa Bay, the COVID-19 outbreak that affected the bulk of players and coaches, and a series of unfortunate injuries sidelining a host of contributors.
Eventually, the team realized their year was unsalvageable, and the final month or so of Raptors basketball consisted of Stanley-Johnson-and-Yuta-Watanabe-led starting lineups — a complete shell of the dominant rotation we witnessed just a season before.