Barnes ready for top defensive player recognition as young star's game evolves

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Darko Rajakovic was saying the other day that he believes Scottie Barnes could be defensive player of the year one day. If you listen to Barnes, that day could come sooner than expected.

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Coming off a five-block — some of them of the spectacular variety — two-steal performance where he served as a kind of roving nullifier against one of the NBA’s biggest teams, Barnes made it clear he doesn’t think his effort in the Raps’ 97-94 win over visiting the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday was an aberration.

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“(We) talked about about it multiple times,” Barnes said after Thursday’s practice. “(It was) him just saying the ability of me to win defensive player of the year with me being versatile, guarding (every position).

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“I just feel like I don’t really get that recognition, as I should. But I feel like I’m a great defender. You see me, I can guard one through five, anybody on the court. I pick up full-court sometimes. I do it all on the defensive end, so that’s what I really take my pride in. That’s where my game starts — on the defensive end. Being able to go out there and guard anybody, taking pride in it, that’s just my mentality going into every game, trying to start off on defence. That leads to great offence with transition and that just leads me to stay on lockdown throughout the game.”

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Whether he’s guarding all-star big men such as Karl-Anthony Towns, forwards or point guards, Barnes isn’t lacking confidence. And though his rookie-of-the-year season a couple of years ago largely was a result of the his offensive numbers, Barnes insisted he’s just as impactful on defence.

“I always feel like I’ve been a great defensive player,” he said. “(Against Minnesota), I had those opportunities to go block shots and I went out there to go get them.

“It’s going to come (recognition for his defence.) I’m not really worried about it.”

Teammate Jakob Poeltl said Thursday he believes the Raptors can field a top-five defence overall and Barnes didn’t disagree.

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“I think that’s the best thing about our team. You see Dennis (Schroder) out their guarding point guards full court, setting the tone out there,” Barnes said. “And we’ve just got a bunch of guys that can guard one through five. They’re strong, physical, got that length. I think that just shows what our team can have defensively. We should be top five defensively with all these guys and these long-ass arms. We’ve got length, tall, strong. We should be able to just go out there and get stops every night and impose our will on the defensive end.”

Rajakovic had the last word on his team’s defensive potential.

“I think this year, (the) NBA should save themselves (some) worry and give our starters five rewards for being the best defensive players,” he joked.

@WolstatSun

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