The 2021-22 NBA season is entering its final stretch as there are only less than two months remaining on the schedule. The Rookie of the Year race has been one of the most exciting aspects of the season so far, with several first-year players making an impact on their respective teams.
As it stands, BetMGM is listing the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Evan Mobley as the NBA Rookie of the Year favorite at a commanding -400 odds. Mobley has been a key piece to Cleveland’s meteoric rise, which has led to his favorable odds.
With that being said, one player who’s beginning to heat up is the Toronto Raptors’ Scottie Barnes. While his +1100 odds are a ways back from Mobley, you can never say never in sports.
Here’s a look at how Barnes has been playing lately and whether or not he can catch Mobley in the Rookie of the Year race.
What Has Mobley Done Thus Far This NBA Season?
Before analyzing whether or not Scottie Barnes can catch Evan Mobley in the Rookie of the Year race, it’s important to look at exactly what the latter has done.
Drafted third overall by the Cavaliers, Mobley has been thrust into a major role in his first campaign. He’s started in each of the 50 games he played in as of February 24, averaging the second-most minutes played (34.1) among rookies.
When it comes to other rookie statistics, Mobley leads all first-year players when it comes to rebounds (8.1) and blocks (1.6), while also averaging the third-most points (14.9). He’s also had 13 double-doubles so far this season, which goes to show that he hasn’t been afraid to contribute on both sides of the ball.
While his .265 three-point percentage and 2.6 assists per game aren’t mind-blowing, he’s still shown that he can stretch the floor at the NBA level as a 20-year-old.
Mobley has also proven to be extremely versatile, splitting his playing time as a center (32%), power forward (37%) and small forward (32%). He ranks fourth on the Cavaliers with 4.2 win shares, further proving his worth to the team.
On the surface level, it’s easy to see why Mobley is heavily favored across many sportsbooks to be named 2021-22 NBA Rookie of the Year.
What Has Barnes Done Thus Far This NBA Season?
Much like the Cavaliers have done with Mobley, the Toronto Raptors have turned Scottie Barnes into an essential part of their team.
Barnes has started in each of the 49 games that he’s played, leading all rookies with an average of 35.4 minutes played. He’s also played at least 40 minutes on four separate occasions, proving to the Raptors that he can step up when needed.
The 2021 second overall pick has made the most of his minutes, averaging 14.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists. That’s not even to mention that he’s recorded at least 20 points 10 times, which is a lot more than most rookies can say.
Barnes hasn’t backed down on defense either, averaging 1.0 steals and 0.8 blocks, along with the third-most defensive win share (1.7) on the Raptors. One of his most impressive defense performances came when he recorded five steals in just the ninth game of his career.
The one problem with Barnes is that he can have his streaky moments. He’ll have stretches where he looks like an everyday NBA starter, but then he’ll also have stretches where his shots just aren’t falling. That’s to be expected from rookie players, but it also makes winning the Rookie of the Year trophy that much more difficult.
Can Barnes Catch Mobley in the Rookie of the Year Race?
Both Barnes and Mobley have made fairly smooth transitions to the NBA. They’re among the best players in their draft class, but does the former have a realistic chance at catching the latter?
The truth is that it’s entirely possible for Barnes to catch Mobley, even if it’s an uphill battle. One way of looking proving that is by looking at both players’ stats from their respective last 11 games:
- Scottie Barnes: 13.5 PTS/6.5 REB/2.7 AST/1.1 STL/0.5 BLK on .467/.367/.788
- Evan Mobley: 14.4 PTS/8.0 REB/2.5 AST/1.1 STL/1.5 BLK on .477/.077/.636
By looking at their recent statistics, it’s easy to see that Barnes and Mobley are playing fairly similar. However, it’s the former’s shooting splits that are much superior. If things continue at that pace, it isn’t unfathomable to imagine Barnes closing the gap — especially if the Raptors continue their hot streak.
Another thing that could help Barnes is that the Raptors have the seventh-easiest remaining schedule, according to Tankathon, with their opponents averaging a .486 winning percentage. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers’ schedule is the ninth easiest (.487), however, that small difference could be exactly what Barnes needs.
At the end of the day, Mobley will enter the final stretch of the season as the NBA Rookie of the Year favorite. While there is an outside chance that Barnes can catch him, the Raptors rookie must outplay his Cavaliers counterpart to turn that into a reality.
It’ll be easier said than done because of how equal the duo has been playing, however, you can never say never in the world of basketball.