Scottie Barnes has won the 2021-22 NBA Rookie of the Year award, the league announced Saturday. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2021 draft beat out Cleveland Cavaliers No. 3 overall pick Evan Mobley and Detroit Pistons No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham for the honor. The Florida State product is the third Raptor to win the award after Damon Stoudamire did so in 1996 and Vince Carter followed it up in 1999.
The race between Barnes, Mobley and Cunningham was one of the fiercest of the entire season. Barnes finished with 48 first-place votes, while Mobley came second with 43. Cunningham earned nine.
The 15-point difference between the NBA Rookie of the Year winner (Scottie Barnes) and the second-place finisher (Evan Mobley) is the smallest margin since the current voting format began 19 years ago.— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) April 23, 2022
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Full voting results ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/LWhlYARDcX
Mobley, helping to lead a surprising hot start for the Cavaliers, took the early lead in the public consensus. He emerged as an early All-Defense candidate playing alongside Jarrett Allen in Cleveland's front court, and most books pegged him as a heavy favorite in the middle of the season.
Ahead of Game 4, this year's Rookie of the Year winner received his trophy:
But Barnes and Cunningham both came on strong as the season progressed. Cunningham, after a very slow statistical start, eventually managed to show off his potential as a long-term star point guard in helping the Pistons end the season on a high note. The star potential in Barnes was visible all along, but as the Raptors climbed up the standings and eventually earned a No. 5 seed, voters began to reconsider his candidacy.
Statistically speaking, Barnes and Mobley both had their merits. Their scoring was relatively even, with Mobley averaging 15 points per game and Barnes coming in just ahead of that. Mobley was the superior rebounder (8.3 per game) and shot-blocker (1.7), whereas Barnes led the way in assists (3.5) and steals (1.1). Their shooting efficiency was fairly close as well, but Barnes played nearly 300 more minutes.
In the end, Barnes managed to convince the voters near the end of the season that he was the correct choice. He'll take home the trophy, but the rivalry between he, Mobley and Cunningham will surely be among the Eastern Conference's main storylines over the next several years.