Toronto forward Scottie Barnes was named NBA Rookie of the Year on Saturday, edging out Cleveland’s Evan Mobley.
“It’s a big reward, it’s one of the headlines,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said.
Barnes received 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, but I didn’t really try to think about it too much or do the same,” Barnes said. “I just did my part, I did what I had to do. Winning helps me too.”
Barnes helped stage a turnaround in Toronto, where the Raptors went 48-34 after going 27-45 and missing the playoffs last season.
The 15-point difference 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 place.
The award was announced shortly before the Raptors hosted Philadelphia in Game 4 of their 3-0 first-round series.
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 avoid elimination.
“We got a nice boost from Scottie’s bench with his rebound 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 the 74 games he played. He led all rookies in minutes and was third in points and rebounds.
“He’s going to keep getting better, keep growing, but it was a great moment,” Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr. said. “I’m thrilled for him, and that’s a good 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 told he had won by Carter during a Friday practice video appearance.
“I was wondering what he was talking to us about,” Barnes said. “He just kept going and I was starting to realize.”
Nurse said Barnes’ price was a welcome change after Toronto lost in overtime on Wednesday, losing 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 weren’t a lot of good 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 field is exactly who Scottie is: enthusiastic. Cheerful. Athletic. Skilled and a winner,” Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “We – and our fans – have loved seeing his development throughout this season, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Mobley, taken a pick ahead of Barnes, helped spark a similar turnaround in Cleveland. The forward averaged 15 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks as the Cavaliers came close to returning to the playoffs for the first time since LeBron James left in 2018.
Detroit’s Cade Cunningham, the first draft pick, finished third.
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