The Toronto Raptors weren't particularly fun to watch during the 2022-23 season. There was an atmosphere of disjointedness all over the roster, leading to an uninspiring 41-win season. Now, it was up to Masai Ujiri to clean up house, letting championship-winning coach Nick Nurse go and allowing Fred VanVleet to secure a huge long-term deal with the Houston Rockets.

Now, the Raptors' direction moving forward remains a bit unclear. Pegged by many as a potential selling team that could look to cash in on the considerable trade values of Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, the team was also reportedly in hot pursuit of Damian Lillard before his trade to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Raptors have been confusing on the court as well to begin the 2023-24 season. They have beaten the likes of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Bucks, and escaped with a huge comeback win over the San Antonio Spurs, yet they have also fallen to also-rans such as the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers.

But amid all the confusion surrounding the Raptors franchise, one thing is clear: they do have a foundational star in Scottie Barnes, especially if this newfound level of production for the 2022 NBA Rookie of the Year ends up being more of the rule than the exception.

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Scottie Barnes may have borne the brunt of the Raptors' overall disjointedness last season. This, in fact, may have been the point of contention between the Raptors front office and the coaching staff, as it seemed as though the team was swimming in two directions when it comes to who's in charge of commandeering the offense.

Barnes, despite showing flashes of being an incredible table-setter at the point of attack, a versatile inside-outside scoring weapon, during his rookie season, took a bit of a backseat to the Raptors' veterans last season. Among the Raptors' core six players, Barnes took the second-fewest shots per game, only averaging more than the rim-running Jakob Poeltl. Barnes' efficiency waned as his involvement in the offense came and went, and he was unable to maximize his role off the ball after failing to improve his three-point shooting.

But now, under the tutelage of new head coach Darko Rajakovic, Scottie Barnes has been the Raptors' undisputed primary weapon on offense, and he has flourished as a result. Currently leading the Raptors in shot attempts per game with 16.7, Barnes has repaid the Raptors' trust in him in spades. He's shooting 51.3 percent from the field, and in the most surprising development of his game, is also shooting the lights out from beyond the arc, making 2.3 triples per game on 42.1 percent.

And it's not like Barnes is doing it in fluke ways; sure, some regression to the mean might be expected, especially in the three-point department. (It's unlikely that Barnes continues to shoot over 40 percent from three on a healthy volume when he's a career 30.1 percent shooter from three.) But Barnes is passing the eye-test with flying colors. His offensive bag has deepened; he is bringing out stepback jumpers, hesitation drives, and quick changes of speed, which have only served to further accentuate his already-incredible paint game.

Scottie Barnes is also thriving in a Raptors team that's moving the ball more effectively this season, with Dennis Schroder being a more willing mover of the basketball than Fred VanVleet.

And beyond Barnes' impressive development on the offensive end, he has also become an otherworldly defensive force. Last season, for most of the season, the Raptors overtaxed Barnes on that end of the floor (along with everyone else) due to their lack of a true center. But Darko Rajakovic, this season, has made the most out of Barnes as an elite weakside patroller, leading to career-best blocks numbers.

At the moment, Barnes is averaging 2.1 blocks per game, good for seventh in the association behind only the cream of the crop when it comes to rim protection, such as Anthony Davis, Victor Wembanyama, Chet Holmgren, and Jaren Jackson Jr.

And this improved rim protection numbers hasn't come at the expense of his stifling perimeter defense, combining with OG Anunoby to form one of the most annoying perimeter defensive duos in the NBA. Is DPOY contention in the cards for Barnes in the near-future?

Only 22 years old, Scottie Barnes is developing into the player that many believed he'd become after an impressive rookie season, even if this progression is coming a year later than many thought. But at the very least, the Raptors are looking very much justified in their decision to hang onto Barnes amid all the trade rumors involving his name over the past year or so.