Point/Counterpoint: Would you choose Scottie Barnes or Chris Duarte for Rookie of the Year? 

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) and forward Scottie Barnes (4) hug after a basket in the second half against the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Photo by Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

The NBA season has started off with a bang, and many players have impressed fans by playing well to set a tone early into the year. One of the best features of this year has been the rookie class that has featured Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes and Indiana Pacers guard Chris Duarte. Both players have done well thus far and look to compete throughout another entertaining season. However, a question arises as to which will take home the coveted Rookie of the Year award when the final buzzer sounds at the end of the regular season. Will it be the 24-year-old rookie guard from Oregon or Barnes, the 20-year-old NBA lottery pick tasked to guide Toronto back to greatness? Staff Writer Evan Rodriguez and Campus Correspondent Stratton Stave will attempt to answer this question in this week’s edition of point/counterpoint.  

Evan: It would be foolish of me not to acknowledge the talent of Barnes and the talent that he brings to an NBA court. I do not doubt that he will do great things in this league and has great potential to become a star in the NBA. While I like Barnes, I’m going to go with Duarte in this argument. Indiana indeed found a sleeper pick with Duarte, and this move paid off for a team that could be of great use of his services. While he has had to compete with guard Malcolm Brogdon, he’s flourished in this role with an impressive 17.7 points per game and 39% from the three-point line. I believe in Duarte and his offensive firepower. With Indiana facing many injuries to start the season, I know he will be heavily relied on for a scoring boost, and with how great the rookie is looking for the team, it’s hard to doubt the potential he possesses. What separates Duarte from a player such as Barnes is how the guard will keep his production throughout the year. While Barnes may be averaging more points than Duarte at 18.1, he has done this in the absence of star big man Pascal Siakam. With Siakam set to return closer to mid-November, I can see his production taking a slight decrease. While both players possess advantages, such as Barnes with rebounding and Duarte with shooting, I’m in favor of giving the award to Duarte, especially if he can help the Pacers grab a spot in the playoffs alongside the help of big man Domantas Sabonis and center Myles Turner.  

Stratton: As much as I like Duarte, I’m having a fair bit of trouble so far finding any possible reasons to place him above Barnes. For starters, Barnes is besting the Pacers rookie in three out of four of the major stat categories or points, rebounds and PER. Even the one stat Duarte leads Barnes in — assists — is by a merely insignificant 0.4 dimes per game. The massive advantage Barnes has in PER is stunning (18.9 vs 11.9) and really sets the two apart in my mind. Although Duarte has the fun underdog story (albeit picked 13th) and Barnes was picked top five, it is really hard to get past the fact that the Toronto forward is just superior so far. On top of this, we can turn to the team’s records. Although individual statistics are neat, Barnes has led the Raptors to a respectable 5-3 record, while the Pacers find themselves toward the bottom at 2-6. Team success needs to be accounted for and it really does appear that Barnes has improved Toronto’s roster, especially one that is missing Pascal Siakam. With that in mind, it feels like a fairly simple debate as things stand. 

Evan: For Barnes, as I stated previously, the forward is performing without Siakam and Duarte is putting up his statistics with Sabonis, Turner, and mostly Brogdon on the court. We’re seeing Barnes with a Toronto Raptors team that is missing their star. What’s going to happen when the team brings back Siakam to a court that already has OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet playing? His statistics may decrease, while Duarte will consistently play great basketball and provide an impressive offensive threat. Duarte may have a lower PER, but he’s also shooting 39% from the three-point line compared to Barnes’ dismal 22% in a league dependent on three-pointers. Duarte’s offensive production is still above Barnes and I believe he will consistently perform with how much he is fed the ball. With how well Indiana has played with this team minus Duarte, the team will improve, especially as guard Caris Levert gradually returns to the roster to play consistent minutes. While Toronto may have the better record with Barnes right now, how long can they keep that hot streak going? I agree that Barnes has improved Toronto’s roster, but I doubt how they will compete with Indiana as the team gets used to new head coach Rick Carlisle.    

Stratton: To your point on Siakam being missing, there is a chance that Barnes may take a hit in the scoring department, but conversely, it will allow him to demonstrate his elite passing abilities and take better shots with the defense less focused on him. OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet will do their thing, but as Siakam is set to return, an increase in the assist numbers seems imminent. The three-point shooting comparison feels irrelevant, especially when you look at Duarte and Barnes’ respective field goal percentages that see the former Florida State star lead by an incredible 12.6%, which matters much more to efficiency. To your final point on team records, given the fact that Toronto already has collected two wins on Indiana, they should remain the better squad. And on top of that, you made the point that Duarte’s production will be more stable throughout the season because they are already at full strength. But Toronto is not and they are already doing well. Imagine their dominance when Siakam returns! Overall, I feel like the Raptors will be the better team and Barnes is better positioned to win the trophy when all is said and done, doing it through his triple threat of scoring, passing or rebounding. 

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