Deep Dive: Scottie Barnes' midrange game is trending up

Amit Mann analyzes Scottie Barnes' improved midrange efficiency in the last 17 games of the season and breaks down his go-to moves. Also he looks at the exciting flashes he displayed that could become part of repertoire next season.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: Down the stretch of the season, I got this feeling that Scottie Barnes was making a lot more of his midrange jumpers, but I didn't get to looking at the numbers. The season was going down. The Raptors were making their run. And so I said, OK, I'll look at this during the offseason.

Then Nick Nurse gets fired. Another news cycle happens. But, eventually, I did look at the numbers and guess what I found from March 1st onwards over the last 17 games.

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So, yes, final 17 games, here are Scottie Barnes' midrange numbers compared to his season averages. From 10 to 14 feet, a 9% jump. 15 to 19 feet, almost 17% better. 20 to 23 feet, non 3's, NBA doesn't track this distance very well, but this is what I found. Last 17 games, he was 1 of 4.

Overall, though, his midrange efficiency was up 10% in the final 17 games. Before you say it, his February numbers do not look like this so shelf that. And, of course, we have to consider the volume in these attempts.

But it's worth mentioning, Brian Macon, Scottie Barnes' trainer, great dude, spoke to him a few times, most recently in February on the Strictly Hoops podcast with CJ Miles. I hosted with them. Check it out if you'd like. And it was kind of a midseason check-in on where Scottie Barnes was, how his season was progressing, and this is what Brian said.

BRIAN MACON: Our goal is for him to get better throughout the season, so we don't have to wait. We don't only work out in the summer. The summertime, you only get two or three months. We want to continue to just get him going in the right direction and improving throughout the year, becoming a better shooter, become a ball handler.

I think the midrange is important for him. The defense is on his heels a lot. So if he can make 20 to 15-footer, that's when you'll see him jump from 15 to maybe in like the low 20s. For alpha scorers in the NBA, they all take midrange jump shots.

He goes to the basket, play off one foot a lot, and he gets in the air. And a lot of that is to make plays. But I just encourage him to just play off two feet and just go through people's chest.

AMIT MANN: So Barnes is aware that midrange scoring is important to his paint presence, so he can get defenses collapsing and rotating. And he's also aware that most of the big dogs in the NBA have some sort of scoring craft from 10 to 20 feet, which represents a next step in his evolution. And as Brian said, he was working on it throughout the season.

So between the work he did with Brian, the reps he got during practices, and during film sessions and games and so forth, it seems to me like Scottie Barnes did some in-season developing. But what is his midrange? What are his go-tos? What are his counters?

What are the spots that he likes on the court? It would be great to know. Well, lucky for you, I broke it all down, so let's look.

His go-tos, back to the basket turnarounds, Barnes had a lot of success hitting turnaround jumpers off post-ups over mostly his right shoulder, though he made some spinning left, which will keep defenders honest if he is consistently able to finish over both. Also, he has a decent hook shot, so there's an opportunity to combine his turnarounds and right-hand hook shot into a post-up package that will be challenging for defenders to stop. You'll notice most of these feature an empty corner with Scottie isolated against smaller players.

As he develops as a point guard, these shots could become a vital part of his offense so he can be a creator on the block and doesn't have to rely heavily on his still developing face-up game while his ball handling is improving. Sticking on his point guard play, Scottie, along with Fred VanVleet and the Raptors' offense as a whole, benefitted quite a bit from Jakob Poeltl's screening and rolling. The Raptors transitioned to using more pick and roll in the early going of the season, but it didn't truly pay off until Jakob Poeltl arrived.

For Barnes, teams are going to go under on screens. You'll see drop coverage. Defenses will make him hit midrange 2's and negate his rim pressure. Hitting these shots at a high clip are crucial, and most of these are not heavily contested.

They will become harder if he shows he can make them. The rear view contest will become tighter. Other defenders will stunt and recover. The center and drop will push up a bit. His ball-handling confidence is going to get tested.

Next, bumps into a step back. Naturally, he prefers going left. With Scottie's penetration strength, he's going to move defenders and be able to roll into the step back almost at will.

However, creating the contact and initiating the space is key. And if he's able to hit this shot at an efficient clip, where he's bumping, using his dribble, and spinning into a shot over his left shoulder, then that's a hell of a counter. Let's switch now to Scottie's off-the-dribble game.

He took a lot of these in transition or off drives from the top of the key, no different than Pascal Siakam. The goal for any defense will be to keep Barnes out of the paint. So as he gets more comfortable with his handle, flowing from a one-two dribble package into a pull-up jumper, it's going to get easier. These shots will be useful when he's being guarded by centers or players who can match his strength to get them moving laterally.

And then when they're off-balance, boom, vault up for 2. Fade aways, these back-to-back shots over Jaylin Williams were pretty. He'll attempt to find consistency with these jumpers, spinning and fading to the right, tough shots but makeable with his size and strength advantages over time.

Next, finishing paint shots on balance. As Brian said, there was an emphasis put on Scottie to play off two feet more, ensuring he's generating power from his legs for quality shots. He uses one-leg jumpers off good gathers to shoot over long arms and found some success doing it in the short midrange area.

And then going right, heading north, or using an in-out dribble into space for outside the restricted area paint shots, he's stable and level. Knees are bent with good height. Squaring up and jumper mechanics remained a hurdle. Those can be tougher over bigger players.

His numbers from five to nine feet actually went down in the final 17 games. My hope is better spacing and role definition, along with an offense featuring more player movement, help Barnes operate in space more. But he's going to have to finish over long arms, through contact, in traffic, and so forth, especially as more attention comes his way.

So that's the bulk of Scottie Barnes' midrange game. However, there were some other exciting flashes. And, hopefully, during the offseason as he reps this stuff out, these looks can become efficient looks next season. For starters, Scottie played the best basketball of his season as a DHO and screening hub, and I hope some of that does come back. He was able to read, react, and process the defense and work off of it. And it would also be cool if he could be a ball handler and DHO like he was right here because these looks will be there for him.

Next, as we all know, the Raptors had a free-flowing offense that allowed a lot of players to make calls on the fly. And that is a double-edged sword, and a lot of that came down to Scottie Barnes not having the ball in his hands very much. And his opportunities on offense came through a lot of his roaming and just finding space, and he's very good at that.

But at the same time, they need spacing, the elbows and blocks defense that we saw. Teams challenge them to hit 3's, and they were not able to. However, Scottie, flowing into some of these shots without even needing a dribble, is interesting.

Flashing to the middle of the zone for a nail attempt, yes. A baseline cut into a turnaround jumper, give me more. And then the early work with setting his feet, squaring his body, is the right idea. He didn't generate much power from his legs on this one.

And, finally, this palm and jab step into a face-up jumper gave me Vince Carter vibes. How about you? And last but certainly not least, these one-handed runners off drives aren't midrange jumpers, but I thought you might like them because they're pretty, right? Yeah.

In closing, I'm hoping Scottie Barnes gets more on ball reps next season, 100%. At the same time, I'm also hoping he's able to do more with it as a pressure point on defenses with his scoring and playmaking. And a midrange game does do that. It helps it quite a bit.

I'm not looking for a huge leap here. I mean, I'll take it. We saw how long it took Pascal Siakam to rep his skills. It takes a long time. It's hard. It's tedious.

It's a grueling project that spans over a few seasons because of your lack of operating space, and that's compounded by being a Raptor, where there's even less space. I'd like to see him trusted for a full season, meaning there's a steady flow of production. Ups and downs are expected but stay the course. Double down your primaries, level up in your secondaries the best you can, and keep learning, and the 3-point shot will get better over time.

Again, we know the flaws with the Toronto Raptors, right? We know the roster issues. Can Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes coexist when they're both shooting 32% from 3? That is a problem.

But it's doing him a disservice to ask him to a come back 5% better from 3. I mean, don't get me wrong. I will take it. He's going to be as good as he wants to be.

And that's the exciting part about Scottie Barnes. So if he comes back next season with an improved handle from five to nine feet, better efficiency, and he has maybe a second level of scoring that he's comfortable with, I would take that. That would do wonders for the Toronto Raptors and their halfcourt offense, so let's start there.

All right, everyone. I hope you enjoy the video. My name is Amit Mann. Follow me on Twitter @Amit_Mann. Like and subscribe on YouTube. We'll talk to you soon.