Raptor Phenom for Rookie of the Year?

Toronto Raptor's rookie Scottie Barnes continues to make his case for the NBA's Rookie of the Year honors, taking the top spot in the Kia Rookie Ladder for the third week in a row. 

The fourth overall selection in the 2021 NBA Draft led all rookies with 35.3 minutes, 15.2 points, and 8.3 rebounds when the list was released, making him an easy choice to retain his spot atop the rankings.

While the 20-year-old, 6'9 point forward was seen as a bit of a surprise pick with highly-touted Jalen Suggs still available, the selection seems to have panned out for Masai Ujiri and the Raptors. Described as a "no-level scorer" by a certain media pundit before the season began, Scottie has already proven that there are few things he can't do at an NBA level.

The few times when head coach Nick Nurse has trusted Barnes to take the ball up the floor have shown glimpses of how dominant of a floor general he may become, as he's equally adept at creating a shot for himself and for his teammates. His shooting splits of 49-35-73 belie how comfortable he looks with the ball in his hands, whether taking it to the hoop or rising up for a jump shot.

He's not a passenger on defense either, as his seemingly endless energy and high "basketball IQ" help him direct his teammates into position. The fact that he can effectively switch from defending a power forward to a point guard and back again make him just one of many versatile defensive weapons in Nurse's arsenal.

Toronto point guard Fred VanVleet might have taken the long road to the NBA as an undrafted underdog, but that only seems to have strengthened his leadership role among the Raps. Since the departure of veteran Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat in the offseason (a trade which incurred penalties from the league), VanVleet has been more vocal of a leader than ever, and Barnes is among those who've been the beneficiaries. 

In spite of all the doubts that surrounded his selection in the draft, the rookie sensation has combined outstanding defensive abilities with a surprisingly polished offensive game, making him one of the most reliable starters on his team. 

As long as he keeps on making a positive impact on both ends of the floor, it shouldn't surprise any if he takes home some hardware when the NBA season reaches its conclusion. Especially if he keeps making the highlight reels.

Photo Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports