The Toronto Raptors were one of the main benefactors in what has quickly become an absolutely stacked 2021 NBA Draft. They may have missed out on consensus top pick Cade Cunningham, but landing Scottie Barnes has proven to be quite the consolation prize.
Everything about Barnes’ rookie season suggests that the Raptors have a truly unique star in their presence that will help them compete for the next decade. The Pistons appear to have such a standout prospect in Cunningham that some NBA sites still consider the Oklahoma State alum as the superior player. Somehow.
Bleacher Report’s 2021 NBA Redraft still had Cunningham going to Detroit at No. 1 overall, with Barnes ending up with the Houston Rockets at the No. 2 slot. Evan Mobley, who narrowly missed out on Rookie of the Year, slid in at No. 3, while Toronto ended up with Franz Wagner at No. 4 overall.
To take nothing away from Cunningham, who had a fantastic rookie season given the circumstances, the excellence displayed by Barnes should put him at No. 1 in any of these hypothetical redrafts. Ranking Cade at No. 1 implies that Barnes putting together his standout numbers on a winning team didn’t mean as much.
Toronto Raptors: Scottie Barnes is better than Cade Cunningham.
Cunningham has two things going for him. Not only did he overage over 21 points per game during the last 20 games of the season, but he put up his numbers on a bad Pistons team that lacked the depth and structure Barnes had. That shouldn’t lead to him getting preferential treatment.
Barnes may not have outscored Cunningham, but that came as a byproduct of getting the fewest shots up per game out of Toronto’s starting lineup. On a team like the Pistons, where Scottie would have been given free rein to freelance on offense, he would have blown past Cunningham’s 17.4 points per game.
FiveThirtyEight’s five-year market value, a projection system that heavily impacted B/R’s rankings, saw Barnes ($207.7 million) blow Cunningham ($131 million) out of the water. Even glimpsing the value he brings to the table over the next few years wasn’t enough for Barnes to secure the top part. What’s going on?
Cunningham, who was a teammate of Barnes in high school, is going to have an exceptional pro career that will undoubtedly be filled with All-Star game nominations. Having said that, any list that has him ranked over Barnes after the year No. 4 had needs to be revised.