Raptors' Scottie Barnes edges out Evan Mobley for NBA Rookie of the Year

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Raptors forward Scottie Barnes beat out Evan Mobley and Cade Cunningham for the 2021-22 NBA Rookie of the Year award. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
Raptors forward Scottie Barnes beat out Evan Mobley and Cade Cunningham for the 2021-22 NBA Rookie of the Year award. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes has won the NBA Rookie of the Year award, the league announced on Saturday.

The Athletic's Shams Charania first reported the news.

Barnes, the No. 4 pick in 2021, just barely edged out Cleveland's Evan Mobley for the honour. With 378 total points, Barnes topped Mobley by only 15 points, the smallest margin of victory for the award under the current format. Detroit's Cade Cunningham, who was drafted first overall, finished a distant third with 153 points. The Florida native is the third Raptor to win Rookie of the Year in franchise history, joining Damon Stoudamire who won in 1996 and Vince Carter who accomplished the feat in 1999.

Toronto Raptors vice-chairman and president Masai Ujiri extolled Barnes for winning the award and is proud to see that all of his hard work and dedication to the game is being recognized.

“We are incredibly proud of Scottie, and are thrilled and grateful that his hard work has been recognized with this honour,” Ujiri said. “What you see on the court is exactly who Scottie is: enthusiastic. Joyful. Athletic. Skilled, and a winner. We — and our fans — loved seeing his development through this season, and we can’t wait to see what the future brings.”

The three-man race between Barnes, Mobley and Cunningham was touted from the beginning. Mobley was the prohibitive favourite for much of the season. A legitimate All-Defensive candidate — which is rare for a rookie — Mobley showcased a versatile offensive arsenal, averaging 15.0 points on 50.8 percent from the field. Cunningham got off to a slow start this season due to injury which manifested itself in poor shooting from the field. However, as the year progressed, he proved why he was the first overall pick in the draft, manipulating defences at an adroit pace and providing steady defence. He averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists.

Barnes, however, proved to be the most well-rounded rookie this season. He averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, while also shooting 49.2 percent from the field. The 20-year-old wunderkind was a key contributor for the Raptors from the outset, playing an integral role in the team securing the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference. To put Barnes’ freshman campaign in perspective, he is only the 19th rookie in NBA history to average more than 15.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and at least 3.5 assists.

Magic Johnson, one of the few players to achieve the aforementioned record in their rookie season, lauded Barnes for physical gifts and sees a little bit of ‘Showtime’ in the 20-year-old.

“There’s definitely a lot of ‘Showtime’ in him,” Johnson told Murtz Jaffer of the Toronto Star. “He can do everything on the basketball court much like myself.

"He’s big. He’s strong. He’s physical. He can make his teammates better like I was able to do and he’s a matchup nightmare like I was.”

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