Nineteenth century French author Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr famously coined the phrase “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Upon embarking on one of the more critical off-seasons in recent franchise history, the Orlando Magic organization is once again finding itself in a familiar situation: change (and lots of it).
Orlando’s top executives, led by Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and General Manager John Hammond, made franchise direction-altering moves this past March, trading All-Star center Nikola Vucevic (nine seasons with the Magic), starting forward Aaron Gordon (seven seasons with the Magic), and starting wing Evan Fournier (seven seasons with the Magic) prior to the league’s trade deadline. After appearing in the playoffs for two consecutive seasons from 2019-2020, Orlando’s front office decided to change the organization’s course - at least partly due to the significant knee injuries suffered by Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac (which caused the Magic to fall considerably in the Eastern Conference hierarchy).
If that wasn’t enough change (or maybe because it was too much), the Orlando Magic organization will also be searching this offseason for their sixth head coach in the last eight years. On June 5th, an announcement was made that the team and former head coach Steve Clifford had “mutually agreed to part ways”. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando under Stan Van Gundy from 2007-2012, compiled a 96-131 record leading the Magic over the last three seasons. It is widely believed that the Orlando organization’s new blueprint- with so many young players on the roster - doesn’t align with a veteran coach such as Clifford’s timeline.
So here we are, with a turned-over roster full of 20-somethings, and a new lead coach yet to be hired. But with so much change, why do things in Orlando still feel the same?
The draft. Once again, the Magic organization is embarking on a critically important draft - and they have to get things right. The mainstays from recent Orlando past are gone, the team is in full rebuild mode, and much of what the franchise has done over the last year hinges on hitting a homerun during this draft process.
So I’m back for my fourth consecutive offseason, putting together a series of scouting reports on players the Magic will likely be targeting, either with their first round pick or Chicago’s pick (which Orlando acquired in the Vucevic deal). Chicago’s first round pick this year will be conveyed to Orlando as long as it doesn’t land in the top-4.
Some important dates in this process to keep in mind between now and the end of the summer are: June 21st-27th (the NBA Draft Combine), June 22nd (the NBA Draft Lottery), and July 29th (the NBA Draft).
In this series, I have compiled scouting reports that include film observations, loose player comparisons, talking points, Magic-specific potential fits/needs, and more. First in this series is an extremely versatile in-state prospect who has won at all levels he’s competed at - Florida State forward Scottie Barnes.
10.3 points, 4.1 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals (24.8 minutes per game)
54.8% TS%, AST/TO ratio: 1.66
Film study: Eye in the sky
-Explosive leaper for his body/frame
-Long-strider with the ball in transition
-Very strong for a young player, excels at using his lower half to create leverage/separation
-Often used his size and length to get to the rim in the half-court (off the dribble) against smaller players at the collegiate level; used size to convert his floater/runner in the paint over smaller defenders as well
-Won’t find many big forwards with ‘handles’ as advanced as Barnes possesses just one year removed from the high school level
-Advanced vision for a big forward, comfortable with the ball in his hands making plays for others (again, his size helps here reading defenses over the top)
-Strong point-of-attack defender: great balance, quick feet, gets down in a really solid defensive stance
-Plays with great energy on the defensive end (competes, tenacious, disruptive); multi-positional defender
His game resembles…
Draymond Green (both play with great energy and tenacity, possess play-making ability, are versatile defenders; both players leave more to be desired shooting the basketball from the perimeter; Barnes is taller and a bit more explosive)
Bam Adebayo (both had strong bodies/advanced frames entering the NBA after one year at the collegiate-level; Adebayo has shown dribbling and play-making ability with Miami that we didn’t see as much of during his lone season at Kentucky; Barnes will likely offer an NBA team with more positional versatility)
Pascal Siakam (both players are long-striders, use their size/length to punish smaller defenders, and play with a considerable amount of energy/tenacity; Siakam is a more advanced and efficient scorer, was also further along in his development upon entering the NBA than Barnes currently is)
Best games/films of the season
February 27th vs. UNC: 12 points, 7 rebounds, 6 steals
March 6th vs. Notre Dame: 17 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals
March 13th vs. Georgia Tech: 21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists
Video Credit - The Scouting Rapport
Video Credit: Tremendous Upside
Resume & By the numbers
- Helped lead (NSU) University School to back-to-back Florida 5A State Championships during his sophomore and junior seasons (teammates with Vernon Carey Jr. of the Charlotte Hornets)
- Transferred to Montverde Academy for his senior season, played alongside Cade Cunningham, Moses Moody, and Day’Ron Sharpe
- Selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game, the Jordan Brand Classic, and the Nike Hoops Summit (all were canceled due to COVID-19)
- Three-time gold medal winner playing for various Team USA Junior National teams (‘17, ‘18, ‘19)
- Named ACC Rookie of the Year and ACC Sixth Man of the Year (2020)
- Finished 2nd in the ACC in Assist Percentage (31.6 percent)
1) Perimeter shooting
If there was one glaring concern or red flag when it comes to evaluating Barnes, it would have to be his outside shot (or lack thereof). The 6-9 freshmen didn’t attempt many three-point field goals last year in Tallahassee (40 3PTA’s in 595 total minutes, .20 3PTAr), and he didn’t exactly make many either. Even in 18 FIBA Junior Team USA appearances, Barnes only attempted eight three-point field goals (322 total minutes from 2017-2019). It just seems extremely rare in today’s modern game to find a top-level prospect that doesn’t hunt for his own from the perimeter, even dating back to the prep and AAU levels.
Barnes connected on just 27.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc during his freshmen season (22.7% in conference play). Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that the West Palm Beach native made a pedestrian 62.1 percent of his free throw attempts in ‘20-’21, a data point that is often indicative of a player’s ability to develop into a more prolific outside shooting threat in the future.
Barnes has a unique ability to make plays for others considering his size and physical profile. But will that skillset be able to translate in the NBA if he doesn’t develop an outside shot (or at least pose a threat to shoot it from the perimeter)?
His shooting mechanics will need to be completely retooled at the next-level. I think his base/lower half is too narrow and unbalanced leading into his jump shot. He often just looks too vertical when letting it fly from the perimeter, instead of using his legs and strong lower-half to create more bounce/range in his arsenal.
2) Elite role-player potential
The cold reality of this process (evaluation, scouting, draft) is that not every prospect in a given class will fulfill their untapped potential they flashed upon entering the NBA. All staffs and organizations think they are the ones that can fix a player, develop a player, and help them reach their All-Star potential.
However, often that just isn’t the case. All of these players have been superstars at the prep and collegiate levels. But what can they ultimately do at an elite level against the best players in the world? If we’ve learned one thing watching these playoff games, it’s the fact that teams require more than just superstars to win in the postseason. No, they also need elite role-players that sacrifice for the team, do the little things, and contribute to the team’s overall success.
Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder in Phoenix, Monte Morris in Denver, Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles in Utah, Joe Harris in Brooklyn, Danny Green in Philadelphia, Kyle Anderson in Memphis, and so on. Plug-and-play role players that do one or two things at an elite level, enough to take pressure off star players and free them up to do what they do best. In recent NBA history, two dynasty-level teams had these elite role player/glue-guys that I’m referencing: Andre Iguodola (Warriors) and Boris Diaw (Spurs). If you’re going to win at a high-level, you must have these kind of players.
I think Scottie Barnes can be that guy. I’m not sure his outside shot will ever develop in the NBA, and that’s certainly something that could cap his ceiling as a player. But I’m definitively confident in his ability to be disruptive and defend multiple positions in the NBA at an elite level. And if he’s a guy that will continue to make plays for others - a guy you can run secondary offense through - well, that’s already two above-average skills that leads me to believe that Barnes will eventually be on the floor at the next-level in critical parts of the game.
He’s played with other star players at the prep level (Carey Jr., Cunningham, Moody, Sharpe), as well as with multiple FIBA Junior Team USA squads. And while I think his play over the course of his one season at Florida State could have been better, he came off the bench and filled a role on that team at an elite-level enough to be named the ACC Sixth Man of the Year. Using a top-ten pick on a guy who ultimately could develop into just a role-player may not be for everyone. But I think his floor as a prospect is a very high one (because of his defensive potential, size, versatility), and there’s not many prospects you’re going to find in this class that are already as comfortable serving as a role player as Barnes is.
Making a case for the Magic to draft Scottie Barnes in the ‘21 draft
|Does Barnes fit the Weltman/Hammond archetype?||Yes|
|Would taking Barnes in the lottery be considered a BPA/value selection?||No (Magic pick)
Yes (if the Chicago pick falls towards the end of the lottery)
|Would Barnes provide the Magic with depth in a needed area?||Possibly|
Scottie Barnes should not be in consideration for Orlando’s own pick, one which has an over 66 percent chance of landing in the top five. However, the Magic also own Chicago’s first round pick (top-four protected), and that’s a spot where Orlando very likely could/should give Barnes a look (assuming the pick is conveyed and falls somewhere in the 8-11 range).
Another young prospect that struggles to shoot the basketball may seem like the last type of player Orlando needs to add to their roster. You could certainly make the argument that other prospects in this class projected to also fall in a similar range make more sense for Orlando because of potential shooting/spacing upside.
But there are a few reasons why I wouldn’t necessarily count Barnes out for Orlando (with the Chicago pick, again...if it conveys). First of all, he would absolutely fit the proverbial “best player available” label should he fall in July towards the second half of the lottery. Magic executives have shown a propensity in past drafts to honor their board and select the “best player available”, regardless of position or perceived need.
Secondly, Barnes plays a forward position where the Magic could afford to add some depth. Both Jonathan Isaac and Chuma Okeke, forwards drafted in the first round by Orlando’s current front office, have suffered ACL injuries in the recent past. Okeke missed the entire season following being drafted by the Magic, while Isaac missed all of this past season as he works his way back from a gruesome injury he suffered inside the NBA bubble at Disney in the late summer of 2020.
And lastly, it important to remember again - this would theoretically be a second lottery pick for the Magic. They can swing for the fences with their own pick, and then take a player with a safer floor in Barnes with the additional pick. We know he can defend, that’s not going to change in the NBA. We know he can potentially run some offense as a secondary playmaker as well. That’s a pretty safe (and versatile) player that can fit into multiple varieties of lineups.
It’s no secret that Jeff Weltman and John Hammond love players with positional size. Barnes boasts the length that Orlando’s front office has valued in the past. While other prospects in this class may offer the organization more offensive upside, Barnes could very well be their guy if defensive versatility and elite role-player potential is what they are looking for.
Aaron Goldstone has been writing for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.