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2021 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles: Scottie Barnes

Some have him as a top-5 prospect. Others see him falling to the end of the lottery. Which is it?

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Florida State at Michigan Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next month, GBB will be profiling various players the Memphis Grizzlies may target in the 2020 NBA Draft. This year we will be breaking it up in to three sections - five to likely trade up for, five potentially available right around pick #17 where Memphis is slotted to pick, and five that surely will be there or perhaps the Grizzlies could even trade back and still select.

First up? Trade up targets, leading off with a polarizing prospect in Scottie Barnes of Florida State.

Scottie Barnes, Forward, Florida State University

  • 6’8”, 225 lbs (7’3” wingspan), 19 years old, from West Palm Beach, Florida
  • One season at Florida State: 24.8 minutes per game, 10.3 points per game on 50.3% shooting (27.5% from beyond the arc, 62.1% from the free throw line), 4.1 assists, 4 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1 block.
  • ADVANCED STATS OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon) - 1.66 assist to turnover ratio, 1.33 assist to usage rate ratio
  • ADVANCED STATS TO IMPROVE - True Shooting (54.8%), Free Throws Attempted Rate (.338)
  • AWARDS AND ACCOLADES - 2020-2021 ACC Rookie of the Year, 2020-2021 ACC Sixth Man of the Year, 3rd Team All-ACC
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENTS: 7th overall (Tankathon), 11th overall (Ringer), 6th overall (ESPN), 9th overall (CBS Sports), 6th overall (The Athletic)

Maybe this is wishful thinking. Even if you perhaps see the Grizzlies with enough ammunition to trade with the Golden State Warriors for the #7 overall selection in this draft (#17, 2022 Jazz 1st, and Golden State’s own 2024 pick back may be the start of something that might work but Sacramento at #9 or Charlotte at #11 may be more realistic) there are at least two major NBA Draft draft big boards that, if they went chalk, would mean Barnes is off the board. There are reasons for that - when it comes to the modern NBA, Barnes checks a lot of boxes. If you want Scottie, you almost certainly need to get to Orlando at #5 - it’s hard to see a squad like Oklahoma City not taking him at #6 overall.

Why? Because the Thunder are in no hurry. They can wait on a player with the talent of Barnes to have his game catch up to his potential. And while Memphis does have greater expectations that Oklahoma City as of now, they have the talent in place to achieve next season’s goals (continued growth, another playoff appearance) without Barnes being the focal point in that pursuit. Where Scottie is already good (and projects to be great) - defensively and as a facilitator/creator of offense - would be enough at his size to both help the Grizzlies now and perhaps be a future star alongside Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. down the road.

Would Barnes be worth the draft capital necessary to get to #5? In a word? Yes.

In more words? Yes...and here is why.

What he does well

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Florida State at Michigan IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

It begins on the defensive end. He has plenty of offensive potential, but in NBA projection reality where Barnes is most ready to thrive is as a defender. It isn’t just the physical measurables that stand out with Barnes - his wingspan and athleticism do pop off the screen when watching his film, though. It is something perhaps even more valuable when it comes to being an elite NBA defender - his mentality. He very clearly understands what he can do to contribute to winning on defense. He doesn’t survive in this area of the game. He attacks. He in college defended every position on the floor and given his length and explosiveness he will be at worst a very good on and off-ball defensive weapon.

Beyond his ability to muddy passing lanes and make shooters adjust sight lines, as an offensive player his size and skill set make him a matchup nightmare for opponents. He was essentially a point guard at Florida State and with his size could play small ball center with flashes of strong rebounding offensively. He has a lot of Kyle Anderson malleability to his game while not being “worthy” of the Slow-Mo nickname. And he isn’t even 20 years old yet.

Where he can improve

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Colorado at Florida State Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

While Barnes is a very good to great NBA prospect defensively and as a creator of offense off the dribble, he currently does not appear to be on a path of consistent offense from beyond the arc. 27.5% from three does not necessarily inspire confidence in his NBA range, and the 62.1% free throw percentage also makes connecting him to perimeter strength difficult to do. He of course can be effective early on without the three point shot, and others have improved their range through the years despite early issues. But Barnes appears uncomfortable on the perimeter outside of transition and pick and roll sets with his handle, and also does not have a game on the low block to speak of, which means he is limited in his skill set and therefore predictable. While he can make offense for others, his ability to do so for himself is less certain.

He also doesn’t rebound as well as you’d hope a forward his size would. But that too can be developed - it just furthers the idea of him being a project.

The fit

The Memphis Grizzlies need a bigger wing. Even if Kyle Anderson is on the roster come opening night, Memphis is undersized on the perimeter beyond Kyle (and Kyle is more of a 4 at this stage than a 3) and Dillon Brooks. Barnes can play essentially any position on the floor, and with Jaren Jackson Jr. as a floor spacing big Barnes’ lack of range hurts you less. If the Grizzlies roster remained exactly the same (unlikely but possible) and Barnes was added to a pretty deep lineup, he’d likely be a reserve getting minutes alongside the likes of Desmond Bane and Grayson Allen. A Ja Morant/Desmond Bane/Dillon Brooks/Barnes/Jaren Jackson Jr. lineup, for example, would give Memphis a versatile defensive front court and three legitimate shooting threats that could help Scottie find his footing as a creator both in the pick and roll as well as off of dribble penetration to open shooters.

And don’t forget about what he can do as a defender. De’Anthony Melton/Dillon Brooks/Barnes/Anderson/Jackson Jr. would be a nightmare of length and athleticism that the NBA would not be able to contend with, and while there isn’t a true point guard in that group there are three secondary facilitators that can all get shots to Brooks or Jackson or get to the rim themselves.

Barnes is flawed. But he fits these Grizzlies well now, and if he adds to his shooting skill it will only improve.

The verdict

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-NC-Greensboro at Florida State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If Scottie Barnes is available at #5 when the Orlando Magic select, the Memphis Grizzlies should be on the phone trying to trade up. Memphis has built up a solid treasure trove of draft assets, and it’s extremely unlikely they actually make all those selections. Given all the talk the Memphis front office does about building the Grizzlies “standard”, and how young the roster remains, adding to that core led by Ja Morant through the NBA Draft makes the most sense. It prolongs the “long view” in terms of Memphis’ contender status, but Zach Kleiman and company have always talked about building “sustained success”. Draft selections, and the long-term contract control that come with them, are the best means to that end.

Scottie Barnes would be worth the last two years’ build to this moment of opportunity. His game is flawed in terms of shooting, but the Memphis Grizzlies have done a tremendous job prioritizing selecting good players with set skills the last two seasons. Barnes’ size, his length, his ability to make scoring opportunities for his teammates and also be a force on the defensive all adds up to a talent that as it grows could get Memphis over the hump in their hunt of a return to Western Conference Finals contender in the years ahead.

Barnes could go as high as 3rd or 4th. If he’s there at 5, Memphis should get on the phone. If Barnes falls to 8?

He should become a Memphis Grizzlies player. But he won’t fall that far.

Scottie Barnes will be drafted at worst #6 overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder, making him just out of the reach of the Grizzlies. If Orlando trades back, it’ll be with #8 after getting “their man” at #5.

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