“One Hundred Percent, One Hundred Percent He Should” | Toronto Raptors Coach Nick Nurse Believes Scottie Barnes Has Locked Up NBA Rookie of the Year

(Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

As we enter the stretch run of the NBA regular season with 10 games to go, Scottie Barnes leads The Shadow League NBA Rookie Meter 21.

No. 1: Scottie Barnes — Toronto Raptors (Forward)

The Raptors shocked everyone and took Barnes over Jalen Suggs (Magic), with the No. 4 pick in the draft. And since Day One, head coach Nick Nurse has likened his unique skill set to teammates Pascal Siakim and OG Anunoby; long, rangy players who bring it nightly on both ends.

What’s scary is Barnes has a higher ceiling than both. The former FSU Seminole is averaging 19.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game over his last 13 games.

For the season the budding star is averaging a 16/8/4 slash line on 49 percent shooting.

No. 2: Evan Mobley — Cleveland Cavaliers (F/C)

The Rookie of the Year race is down to two candidates in the aforementioned Barnes and Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley. Nurse had high praise for both players but believes Barnes should hold the slight edge. Cleveland had started to come back to earth after a blazing first half of the season. The young Cavs are 4-6 in their past 10 games and have dropped to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto, meanwhile, is 8-2 over its past 10 games and has elevated to the sixth seed in the East. 

“One hundred percent, one hundred percent he should,” Nurse said last week to Raptors beat reporter Aaron Rose about whether Barnes should win ROY over Mobley. “I think it’s a helluva race, Mobley’s been unbelievable. I think Scottie’s been as unbelievable, especially lately. He’s been a real force.”

Mobley is arguably the best rookie two-way big the league has seen in a while. His ability to score on one end, set up teammates and anchor the defense on the other end is impactful. That aspect of his skill set is reminiscent of Lakers superstar forward Anthony Davis as a rookie in New Orleans.

Mobley had a bout with COVID-19 that hindered his play for a while, but he’s since picked it up again, to the tune of 16.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.5 blocks over his last 39 games.

 For the season he’s averaging a 15/8/3/2 slash line this season.

 Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch spoke highly of Mobley.

“He seems to really have good instincts, certainly defensively. He unfolds. He’s super-long. And offensively, he’s got a nice touch, and you can see a ton of upside there as well to develop.”

No. 3: Cade Cunningham — Detroit Pistons (Guard)

The Pistons’ dynamic two-way star has been pretty good all season. Inconsistency aside, he’s filled up the box score nightly for the rebuilding guys from the Motor City. After missing training camp and the beginning of the regular season, Cunningham has been in catch-up mode as it pertains to the ROY award. His play over the past five weeks has been absolutely stellar, as he’s averaged 22.0 points, seven rebounds and six assists per game. 

In a 122-101 victory over the Hawks on Wednesday, Cunningham became the second rookie since 1996-97 (play-by-play era) to play at least 35 minutes in a game and finish with a plus-minus of +40 or better. He joined Dwyane Wade, who in 2004 was +40 in 37 minutes of action.

For the season, the 2021 No. 1 overall pick is averaging 17.0 points, 6.0 assists and 5.5 assists.

No. 4: Franz Wagner — Orlando Magic (Guard)

Wagner has been a breath of fresh air for a rebuilding Magic team which has shown some life in recent weeks. The rookie was highly effective in a win over the Golden State Warriors this past week that didn’t sit well with Warriors player Draymond Green. 

Wagner has been consistent all season, scoring in double figures in 59 of the team’s 72 games. In the last two months he’s shooting 40 percent from three, while increasing his rebounding and assists. He’s even gotten better defensively, especially his pick-and-roll defense.

 

Wagner has boasted a solid slashline of 15.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists on 46 percent from the field and 36 percent from three this season.

No. 5: Jonathan Kuminga — Golden State Warriors (F)

Kuminga continues to give the Warriors a real jolt, as he’s once again coming off the bench with the return of Draymond Green. With Green sidelined for over 30 games this season, Kuminga filled in admirably.

The 19-year-old former G-League Ignite star possesses freakish athleticism. During Green’s absence he averaged 15 points and five rebounds per game. He also showed some touch from deep, hitting 37 percent of this three-point attempts.

This season, Kuminga is averaging 10 points and five rebounds per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three.