You'll have to scroll pretty far to find the Raptors in the standings this year and naturally, when teams underperform expectations, there are many fingers searching for somewhere to point the blame.
They've landed on Scottie Barnes.
The advanced metrics darling of 2021 has seen his star fall. That's what happens when your shooting percentage and win share rates dip as your turnover percentage and usage rates rise. The vultures start to circle.
But wait just a minute.
Let's slow down for a second on the demise of Scottie Barnes. No, he hasn't made the coveted year two leap but this is the same man who edged out Evan Mobley to win a contentious Rookie of the Year award. This is the same man who was held out of negotiations for Kevin Durant this summer, and that was deemed acceptable.
He hasn't lost his skills a la Charles Barkley in Space Jam.
Barnes' play over 1.5 NBA seasons has led not just pundits to come to his defense but his peers as well.
"Don't worry y'all. Everybody's time is different. He'll be special," reigning Most Improved Player, Ja Morant, said just a few weeks ago.
Barnes erupted last season as an immediate impact player on a playoff team. Trying to immerse yourself amongst NBA greats when you're not even of legal drinking age isn't always the easiest adjustment. Whether it's with a former champion in Pascal Siakam or a former All-Star in Tom (look it up) Gugliotta, getting your NBA feet under you takes time.
Nobody knows that better than Kevin Garnett:
All players don't develop the same, and though the itch is for prospects to see incremental progress, that isn't always the case. Sometimes a sophomore leap isn't what you'd hope, but that doesn't mean it won't work out in the end.
Garnett's second season was reminiscent of Barnes'. He scored 17 per game with 8.0 rebounds, which was an increase from his rookie year, but his shooting efficiencies didn't improve much.
KG did a lot more because he played 10 more minutes per game, but it took until year three for him to start making a noticeably bigger impact on the game. That's when the Timberwolves finished with a record over .500 for the first time in franchise history.
So take it easy on Scottie Barnes. He's going to be just fine. He's the heart and soul of the Toronto Raptors. KG said so.
The Raptors hold +3200 (bet $10 to win $320) to win the Eastern Conference.