Nick Nurse is still burning the Raptors, ruining Scottie Barnes' MIP chase

Barnes has some hurdles to climb to win this award.
Atlanta Hawks v Toronto Raptors
Atlanta Hawks v Toronto Raptors / Andrew Lahodynskyj/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors were expecting big things from Scottie Barnes in the 2023-24 season, as their entire plan of competing for postseason appearances in the next few years hinges on the former No. 4 overall pick becoming an All-Star player who can hold his own on both sides of the floor.

After stagnating last season, Barnes has shot up into the stratosphere this season. Barnes' 20.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists per game show major strides in the right direction on the offensive side, while his 1.5 steals and 1.4 blocks per game lend further credence to his massive defensive improvements.

In most seasons, putting up these numbers after averaging 15.3 points per game last season would be good enough to land Barnes the Most Improved Player Award. However, per the latest odds from FanDuel Sportsbook, Barnes is currently in fourth place behind Chicago's Coby White, Houston's Alperen Sengun, and a rival in Philadelphia.

76ers star Tyrese Maxey is currently the runaway favorite to win this award, averaging just under 26 points per game alongside Joel Embiid. Thanks to Barnes' old coach, Nick Nurse, one of the finest individual seasons in the last decade of Raptors basketball will likely end without the trophy it deserves.

Nick Nurse could help Tyrese Maxey beat Toronto Raptors star Scottie Barnes for MIP.

Maxey is averaging 25.8 points and 6.6 assists per game this season, emerging as one of the best secondary scorers in the NBA and a no-doubt lock to end up in the All-Star Game. Nurse appears to have accentuated the talents of yet another promising young guard.

On top of the fact that Maxey going from a 20-per-game scorer to a 26-per-game scorer is more impressive than Barnes' jump, Nurse's 76ers are competing for a championship while Barnes' Raptors find themselves begging for their front office to make a trade and begin a proper rebuild.

Maxey controls his MIP destiny at this point. Barring a regression that is so stunning his early-season surge is unable to make up for it, even the best stat-stuffing nights from one of the game's best young forwards will likely be unable to match what Maxey is doing.

Raptors fans who watch the team every night and see the issues Barnes has to overcome are fully appreciative of the season he is having. The rest of the league might not see that, however, which could lead to Nurse's efforts with Maxey blocking his former pupil from getting some silverware of his own.