Toronto forward Scottie Barnes was voted NBA Rookie of the Year on Saturday, edging Cleveland’s Evan Mobley.
“That’s a big award, that’s one of the biggies,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
Barnes got 48 first-place votes and 378 points from a global panel of 100 writers and broadcasters. Mobley received 43 first-place votes and finished with 363 points.
“Of course it was a goal of mine all year to try to win it, but I didn’t really try to overthink it or try to do so much,” Barnes said. “I just did my role, did what I had to do. Winning helps with it as well.”
Barnes helped engineer a turnaround in Toronto, where the Raptors went 48-34 after finishing 27-45 and missing the playoffs last season.
The difference of 15 points was the smallest margin in the rookie category under the current voting format that began with the 2002-03 season. Players receive five points for a first-place vote, three points for a second-place vote and one point for third.
The award was announced shortly before the Raptors hosted Philadelphia in Game 4 of their first-round series, trailing 3-0.
Coming off the bench, Barnes returned after missing the previous two games with a sprained left ankle. He finished with six points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes as Toronto won 110-102 to stave off elimination.
“We got a great boost off the bench from Scottie with his rebounding and just his presence,” Nurse said
Barnes averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 35.4 minutes per game, starting all of the 74 games he played. He led all rookies in minutes and was third in points and rebounds.
“He’s going to continue to get better, continue to grow, but it was a great moment,” Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. said. “I’m ecstatic for him, and it’s a great thing.”
The No 4 draft pick after one season at Florida State joined Vince Carter (1999) and Damon Stoudamire (1995-96) as Toronto players to be voted Rookie of the Year. Barnes was informed he had won by Carter during a video appearance at Friday’s practice.
“I was wondering what he was talking to us about,” Barnes said. “He was just going on and I was starting to realise.”
Nurse said Barnes’ award was a welcome change after Toronto lost in overtime Wednesday, falling behind 3-0 to the 76ers.
“It was a good moment to share as a team because, like all of us here, being down 3-0, there wasn’t a lot of great moments to think about,” Nurse said. “So that was a good boost.”
Barnes was the only rookie to rank in the top five in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
“What you see on the court is exactly who Scottie is: enthusiastic. Joyful. Athletic. Skilled, and a winner,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “We – and our fans – loved seeing his development through this season, and we can’t wait to see what the future brings.”
Mobley, taken one pick before Barnes, helped spark a similar turnaround in Cleveland. The forward averaged 15 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks as the Cavaliers fell just shy of returning to the postseason for the first time since LeBron James left in 2018.
Detroit’s Cade Cunningham, the No 1 pick in the draft, finished third.
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