Scottie Barnes’ uniqueness as a prospect made NBA comparisons difficult to establish in preparation for the 2023 NBA Draft.

How does a 6-foot-9 point guard project onto the body of a power forward who can literally do a little bit of everything at each end of the floor? Is it like Draymond Green? Boris Diaw? Jabari Parker? Those names (which were pre-draft comparisons) show the range of what experts felt that Barnes could end up becoming the league.

NBA League Pass: Sign Up to Unlock Live Off-Market Games (7-Day Free Trial)

Turns out the best comparison is one that might have looked ridiculous before the NBA Draft, but a quarter of Barnes’s rookie season, it’s impossible to ignore Giannis Antetokounmpo’s shadows in his game.

Well then.


It’s hard to think of anyone other than Antetokounmpo when you see Barnes spinning down the line for a dunk or, more impressive, going coast to coast with three dribbles for a transition slam.

… He went coast to coast to make a dunk with three (!) Dribbles.

The unique combination of length and athleticism that Antetokounmpo and Barnes possess allows them to do things other NBA players simply can’t, making for an excellent surface-level comparison between the two. The comparison goes much deeper, of course.

Now this is the part where I make it clear that I’m not saying that Barnes will become MVP, Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP like Antetokounmpo did in his first eight seasons, but I’m not. I don’t say it either.

MORE: With the title, Giannis is positioned to reach an uncommon level of greatness

Because Antetokounmpo’s rise to stardom is probably the greatest example of exponential growth and development in the league’s history, it’s not ridiculous to say that Barnes is far ahead of Antetokounmpo at a similar juncture.

It is a fact.

Rookie Comparison: Scottie Barnes vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Player Season Age GRAM GS MIN Pts REB AST FGM % FG 3:00 p.m. M. 3P% FTM FOOT%
Giannis Antetokounmpo 2013-14 19 77 23 24.6 6.8 4.4 1.9 2.2 .414 0.5 .347 1.8 .683
Scottie barnes 2021-22 twenty twenty-one twenty-one 35.6 15.3 8.1 3.3 6.2 .489 0.7 .375 2.2 .730

Because context matters, it’s definitely worth highlighting the fact that the two got into very different situations as rookies.

Antetokounmpo was selected 15th overall by a Bucks team that had made the playoffs a year earlier, finding himself in and out of the starting lineup as a development project. Barnes, on the other hand, was the fourth overall pick for the Raptors, who are in the process of ushering in a new era of basketball.


While Barnes will be the main focus of the Raptors’ esteemed player development program for years to come, he entered the league as a much more polished product, ready to contribute at the NBA level.

That said, it’s worth noting that Barnes turned 20 before playing his first NBA season, while Antetokounmpo made his NBA debut at 18 and celebrated his 20th birthday in December of his second season.

So it’s only fair that we compare them at that time as well, right?

Season Comparison at 20: Scottie Barnes vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Player Season Age GRAM GS MIN Pts REB AST FGM % FG 3:00 p.m. M. 3P% FTM FOOT%
Giannis Antetokounmpo 2014-15 twenty 81 71 31.4 12.7 6.7 2.6 4.7 .491 0.1 .159 3.2 .741
Scottie barnes 2021-22 twenty twenty-one twenty-one 35.6 15.3 8.1 3.3 6.2 .489 0.7 .375 2.2 .730

Even at the same age, Antetokounmpo’s production in year 2 was not on par with what we’ve seen from Barnes during his rookie campaign.

While Antetokounmpo’s averages of 16.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists in his third season resemble Barnes’ rookie numbers, he made the jump to the All-Star Game in Year 4 and was named MVP just two seasons later.

Just as Giannis’ exponential growth should serve as a testament to his hard work and the development staff at Milwaukee, it should also be a cause for Raptors fans to be excited about what is to come from their rookie star, both this season and for years to come.

As absurd as it may seem to compare a 20-year-old rookie to an all-time great player, he has several layers. Of course there are the measurables and the numbers and even the amazing plays, but what about the things that can’t be measured in a draft combination, quantified on a stat sheet, or analyzed in a movie?

Barnes has it too.

MORE: Where does Barnes rank in the early season MVP race?

After making his unofficial debut for the Raptors in the Summer League in Las Vegas, Barnes wrote a letter in The Players’ Tribune titled “What’s wrong, Toronto?” In it, Barnes spoke about his passion for winning and winning big, explaining his anger at not having a chance to compete for the Summer League title saying “that just shows the love I have for this game and this city because all I want. What we do is play hard for this team. And I’m looking forward to showing them that more and more. “

Sounds familiar.

It’s one thing to talk about it, but it’s another to back up those words with action, which closes the circle for Barnes. While Antetokounmpo was a healthy scratch in what would have been the first meeting between the two, Barnes showed his passion and fire by taking on a different challenge.

According to The Athletic’s Eric Koreen, head coach Nick Nurse said Barnes’s response upon learning Antetokounmpo was out was a statement that he would take over to protect Bucks star Khris Middleton.

Middleton finished the night with 22 points (on 8 of 20 shooting) with Barnes protecting him for 34.7 partial possessions, according to Stats.

Barnes’ mindset is what enables him to meet challenges in such a way, which is reflected in the score and in the film. And while the parallels to Antetokounmpo will always be there, Barnes is in a position to forge his own path in the league as the next cornerstone of the Raptor franchise.

The rapid rise to stardom is just beginning.