Scottie Barnes was the fifth-ranked prospect in the 2020 high school class .
In his one year at Florida State, the six-foot-seven point forward averaged 16.7 points per 40 minutes on 54.8% true shooting and 6.6 assists per 40 minutes in his 593 minutes across 24 appearances.
He averaged just 24.5 minutes per game and most often came off the bench – something that will raise skepticism with people unfamiliar with Florida State’s modus operandi but a common practice with Leonard Hamilton, who had no one on the team average more than 29 minutes per game and had as many as nine players average a minimum of 13 minutes per game (and even three more players who logged single digit averages but appeared in at least 18 games).
The 19-year-old, who turns 20 at the end of the month, might be considered a tad older for someone with just one season of college basketball experience under his belt, but Barnes is actually one of those prospects with a premium track record through his teens.
The West Palm Beach native went through the Florida high school circuit, spending two years at NSU University School before transferring to powerhouse Montverde Academy for his senior year. In the summers, he earned 322 minutes of FIBA experience with the United States youth squads, with appearances at the 2017 U16 Americas Championship, the 2018 U17 World Cup and the 2019 U19 World Cup.
Barnes was viewed as more of a potential combo forward in his teens but signaled the intention to transition into more of a wing ballhandler who could run the point fulltime and it is said Florida State secured his commitment by agreeing to that plan, which was put into action this past season.
Given the nature of Florida State’s offense, Barnes didn’t exactly monopolize possession of the ball and ran pick-and-roll on an every-possession-basis but was consistently sought off as the triggerman off defensive rebounds and got the team into their sets in the halfcourt.
He exceled in transition, both as a threat to attack the goal against opponents running back and as a shot creator for others on the run, but struggled as a threat to score in the halfcourt, especially when kept away from the rim.
However, Barnes is currently ranked sixth on ESPN’s top 100, at the time of writing, in the account of his defense. His level of competitiveness really pops on video, and he proved himself quick enough to check opposing point guards consistently. His effort away from the ball was just as pleasing, even if his contributions via events near the rim were somewhat below expectation.
The appeal with Barnes is the idea of someone his size with his length being capable of guarding every single position across the perimeter and maybe even spending some time at center on occasion, while running point on the other end.
But for now, while his feel for the game is certainly enticing, Barnes is not enough of a threat to score in the halfcourt to be considered as having star potential as a ballhandler. As we’ve seen this postseason, regardless of how good you are in other areas of the game, being able to threaten putting the ball through the basket in volume is still a must for a star point guard/point forward in the NBA.
Until then, Barnes seems more suited for a connective tissue role where his passing skills are leveraged with him on the move, preferably against a scrambling defense or with a numbers advantage where he can trigger opponents into making commitments that he can take advantage of.
Barnes really impressed with his engagement away from the ball. He works hard in ball denial and consistently showed great hustle when the defense was in scramble mode.
For someone who projected as more of a potential big man in high school, Barnes looked nimbler and properly conditioned to defend the perimeter full time at the collegiate level – quick enough to make multiple effort plays repeatedly.
He was active looking to step in for stunts, clog driving lanes and get in the way, while leveraging his seven-foot-two wingspan  into making plays on the ball from the side via deflections, strips, and steals.
Barnes got his length into passing lanes as well, with his average of 2.4 steals per 40 minutes standing out as a top 10 mark among players listed on ESPN’s top 100.
He is not an especially explosive leaper in a tight area or without time to load up and thus wasn’t as productive near the rim in terms of events (averaging just 0.7 blocks per 40 minutes and securing just 11% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor) but does contribute by making an impact in the hidden areas of the game.
Barnes steps up to the front of the rim as the last line of defense when he is the lowest man to the baseline, guards with his arms up to wall up the goal, challenges shots via verticality somewhat effectively with his nine-foot standing reach, proved himself a willing charge drawer and is fond of mixing it up under the basket by boxing out whoever is close by.
His closeouts to the three-point line stand out as well. He is quick enough to run the more hesitant shooters off the line, has the body control to be able to stay in front as they put the ball on the floor and puts in the effort to try contesting within the shooter’s personal space when he isn’t able to force a shot fake.
Barnes bends his knees to get down in a low stance and really competes defending on the ball, up to a remarkable level for someone his age.
Spending quite some time as essentially Florida State’s backup point guard, he checked smaller players for entire possessions quite a bit in his one year in college, as well as picked up other smaller wing ballhandlers on switches too on top of it.
Differently than what we tend to see with wing-sized players defending smaller players, with bigger players tending to be more fearful of getting blown by and become more reactive, Barnes stood out with his more aggressive approach. It was common to see him pressing up smaller players and heating them up in attempts to reach around for strips.
His quickness is above average for someone his height, as he proved himself capable of staying in front of legit threats to shake him side-to-side out in space at the collegiate level, and he showed to have as many lateral slides as needed to stay in front on longer straight-line drives as well. His reaction quickness contesting pull-ups within the shooter’s personal space impresses too.
Barnes flashed some ability to apply physicality and contain dribble penetration through contact against these smaller opponents but generally looks to defend with his feet and his arms more than his chest and his hips. That raises some concern of whether he is physical enough to defend some of the bigger wings he’ll see in the NBA, though lack of toughness didn’t seem like much of a concern when he picked up bigger players on switches on a few occasions and put in the effort fronting the post to deny easy entries.
Barnes generally defended smaller players throughout the season, though, differently than what he did at Montverde Academy and with the United States U19 squad that won the 2019 U19 FIBA World Cup in Crete, so it’s a tad unclear if he remains a fit to defend stouter opponents in his nimbler 225-pound physique, but this seems like one of those instances of where, just because he didn’t do it much recently, shouldn’t mean that he can’t do it anymore.
Barnes struggled a little more in pick-and-roll defense, unable to get skinny cleanly over ball-screens at the point of attack and not really showing enough pure speed to make a consistent impact from behind while hustling in pursuit.
His average of 3.5 personal fouls per 40 minutes stands out positively, considering how much he seeks the action in help defense and how energetically he plays heating up the ball, as well as contesting both pull-ups and catch-and-shoot attempts.
Barnes was not a volume defensive rebounder at Florida State but was consistently the first pass off a defensive rebound when he was on the floor and showed a knack for hunting opportunities to speed up the pace of the game in transition.
He is not necessarily a dynamo pushing the ball up the court but has some speed with the ball and a good handle for open floor basketball.
Barnes can attack a scrambling defense all the way to the basket and go up with power off one foot off a head of steam – shooting 70.6% on his 85 attempts at the rim , with most of his scoring done in transition.
He is also an option to play above the rim as a target for lobs on give-and-go’s or running past the ballhandler to fill the lanes – with about a quarter of his makes at the rim assisted.
But while he will take a clear path to the goal if one presents itself, Barnes seems more naturally inclined to create for others on the run and even flashed some versatility to his passing on the move; able to launch long two-handed bullets on outlets, two-handed chest passes to a shooter sprinting to the wing, no-look passes to a shooter sprinting to the corner or a winger running past him to the front of the rim, and touch lobs for alley-oop threats running past him.
Barnes is also more naturally inclined to create for others off the bounce in the half-court.
He was the triggerman of a motion offense geared towards the wings running side pick-and-roll out of ball reversals and dribble-handoffs but got a fair number of chances to create against a set defense as well.
His handle is not raw but is not very refined either and he hasn’t yet developed a lot of craft manipulating his defender into the ball-screen or much of a feel for declining the picks.
It can’t be said that he is just a basic pick-and-roll operator, though. Barnes is capable of playing with pace to put his man in jail and play a little bit of cat and mouse to trigger decisions from the big man and the weakside help defender.
He is not yet an ambidextrous passer off a live dribble, more comfortable and more capable bringing the ball all the way up for two-handed passes, but consistently plays with his head up to see over traffic and proved himself able to hit the roll man over the top or the weakside shooter with jump-passes – assisting on 31.5% of Florida State’s scores when he was on the floor last season.
His decisiveness for turning the corner or getting downhill comes and goes, with most of his scoring at the rim done in transition or when he hunted for second chance opportunities in the offensive glass.
Florida State had decent shooters and most of the players knew where to stand more often than not, yet it was not common to see Barnes getting all the way to the basket off the bounce.
Besides his natural inclination for passing off dribble penetration, he hasn’t yet developed much in terms of shake and dribble moves to maneuver his way through obstacles – limitations that also hold him back in isolation.
While flexible and capable of playing lower on defense, Barnes has more of a stiffer posture with the ball and hasn’t yet developed much shiftiness. A high dribbler in traffic, he averaged 4.0 turnovers per 40 minutes and his 20.7% turnover rate is a bottom 10 mark among all players on ESPN’s top 100.
Barnes showed some dexterity on a runner on occasion and shot a not-terrible 37.9% on two-pointers away from the rim but struggled with his touch a fair amount as well and is not a natural shooter pulling up for jumpers off the bounce.
Without much of an in-between game at this point of his development, he is not a threat to score when kept away from basket, which makes it challenging to view him as a primary shot creator in the half-court.
Barnes took just one-fifth of his live-ball attempts from three-point range, at a pace of just 2.7 such shots per 40 minutes, and rarely ventured to take them without his feet completely set, other than on a few more aggressive instances as the trailer in transition.
His overall process is still a tad mechanical, and he needs time and space to load his shot, looking hopeless with sort of a catapult shot if forced to speed up his motion, but his approach actually looks more promising than it did a year ago.
When able to set his feet and receive the pass in his shooting pocket, Barnes launches a reasonably fluid shot. He rises with little elevation but fully extends himself for a high release and tends to miss long or short in his best attempts.
That said, the ball doesn’t go in much yet, as he missed 72.5% of his 40 three-point shots last season. Perhaps more concerningly, Barnes missed over a third of his foul shots, raising concerns over whether he has the touch to be expected to develop into a shooter.
As is the case, he needs to hunt for creative ways to make himself useful off the ball and does so by acting as a connective tissue who can aid ball movement on quick touch passes as the third man on short pick-and-rolls or off cuts.
Barnes can pick up some assists as a hub to facilitate offense in these instances but was most productive without the ball in his hands by hunting for second chance opportunities in the offensive glass.
His average of 2.4 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes is the fifth-best mark among players who aren’t listed as power forward or center on ESPN’s top 100, and he converted his 17 putback attempts at a 70.5% clip.