Article Written by Hudson Stewart (@hudson_stewart6)
With the playoffs now over for the Raptors, it’s time to give out some awards to some of the players from this season. I’ll cover the usual MVP, 6th Man of the Year, and Rookie of the Year, but I’m also going to include a few other awards that aren’t usually given out.
Most Valuable Player: DeMar DeRozan
Now, obviously DeRozan didn’t have a very good 2nd round series against the Cavs; he didn’t play like himself and it was one of the biggest reasons that the Raptors got swept. But let’s not let that distract us from what was a great regular season and a pretty good 1st round series for DeRozan. DeRozan lead the team in scoring this year, averaging 23.0 points per game, but where you see the biggest difference in DeMar’s game from last year to this year was his assist numbers. With the Raptors focusing on ball movement more this year, DeRozan averaged more than 1 more assist per game this year compared to last year. (5.2 assists per game this year, 3.9 last year). We also saw DeRozan shoot the 3-ball a lot more this year, and even though he didn’t shoot it as much, or as well in the playoffs, he was still much more effective this year behind the arc than in previous years. He averaged 3.6 shots from 3 this year, which trumps his 1.7 3-point attempts per game from last year. He still only shot 31% from 3 this year, but it is an improvement from last year, and hopefully he can continue to improve from 3. Many Raptors fans, including myself, were disappointed with DeMar in the playoffs, but hopefully we can all remember how good he was this year, and how he was the Raptors most valuable player from this season.
Rookie of the Year: OG Anunoby
Any way you look at, this award goes to OG. Even if you’re a Lorenzo Brown superfan, you should be able to see that OG Anunoby was by far the Raptors’ best rookie this year. There were question marks coming into this year for OG. He suffered a knee injury during the college season last year, and many people wondered whether or not he’d be able to start the season due to his health. He did start the season, and he ended up playing in 74 games this year, a lot of them as the starting SF. OG’s stats from this year don’t overwhelm you, (5.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 0.7 APG) but he was a pretty good defender, and when you’re the 5th option in an offense, you’re not going to score a lot. One of the most encouraging things I saw from Anunoby this season was how he played well through the playoffs. He was one of the only Raptors who played well during Round 2, and especially in Game 3 in Cleveland, when he hit a game-tying 3-pointer (Let’s not talk about what happened after that shot). Overall, I’m extremely encouraged by what I saw from the OG Anunoby this season. From his hilarious comments with the media to his killer instinct on the floor, there’s a lot to like about this kid, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that he was the team’s best rookie this season.
Sixth Man of the Year: Fred VanVleet
The engine of the “Bench Mob”, Fred VanVleet was one of favourite Raptors to watch this season. Most Raptors fans vaguely knew who he was coming into this season, but it would’ve been awfully hard to predict that he would’ve had this much impact on the team this year. VanVleet put up good numbers off of the bench this season. He averaged 8.6 points per game, 2.4 rebounds per game, 3.2 assists per game, and 0.9 steals per game. Those aren’t superstar level numbers, but for a guy who played 20 minutes a night, they’re pretty good. VanVleet had a huge impact on the rest of the team this year, especially the rest of the bench. It became very clear how much Fred meant to the bench unit during the Raptors’ first round series with the Wizards. VanVleet was pretty much held out of games 1 through 5, and the bench unit struggled because of it. But, when VanVleet returned in Game 6, it seemed that the bench got back to it’s old ways, and it was a big reason why the Raptors won that game. People will point to the fact that VanVleet missed 2 big shots in Game 1 of the 2nd Round, but that shouldn’t define his season, because he made huge strides as a player this year, and was a vital part of the 59 win season for the Raptors.
Defensive Player of the Year: Jakob Poeltl
In his 2nd season out of the University of Utah, Jakob Poeltl had a very productive season. He averaged almost 7 points a game this year, but I’m gonna focus on his defense here. Any player who’s 7 feet tall should be a good rim protector, and Poeltl definitely showed that he’s a solid rim protector this year. He had 1.2 blocks per game this year, which, if you look at the his 0.4 blocks per game from last season, is a huge improvement. Poeltl also pulled in 4.8 rebounds per game this year, which was big for the team considering they didn’t use have a lot of size to go along with Poeltl off of the bench. I think it’s realistic to expect Poeltl to continue to improve his game defensively, but as for right now, Poeltl can definitely protect the rim for this team, and grab rebounds, and that’s why he’s my pick for Raptors’ Defensive Player of the Year.
Most Disappointing Player: Norman Powell
After 2 good seasons to start his career, Norman Powell was rewarded by the Raptors with a 4-year, $42 million contract. Powell was mostly known by Raptors fans as a guy who could come in off of the bench and play good defense, while hitting the occasional jumper. He did that job very effectively in past years, especially in the playoffs. That Norman Powell did that show up this year for the Raptors, and that new contract now looks like a bad deal for the team. First of all, Powell was sort of the odd man out this year. He began the season as the starting small forward, but after he got hurt, OG Anunoby took over that role, and he never gave it back. Powell struggled to get minutes because of this, and he ended up only playing during garbage time, or when someone was injured. Powell also wasn’t very effective even when he played this year. He only shot 26% from 3, which is where we took more than half of his shot attempts this year, so that didn’t help his case to get more minutes. With Powell, he could easily make his contract look like a steal if he plays well next season, but right now, I’m confused as to where he lies on this team. I had very high hopes for him going into this season, but those hopes didn’t pan out at all, and that’s why I’ve given Powell the Most Disappointing Player Award for this season.
Best Moment of the Season: DeMar DeRozan’s Dunk V.S. Detroit
It’ll no doubt be on the Plays of the Year countdown for all of sports this year. This dunk was one of the most ferocious coast-to-coast plays I’ve ever seen in a basketball game. Down 1 with about 8 seconds to go in the game, DeRozan took the inbound pass from the baseline, and then just put his head down and never turned back. He went coast-to-coast and finished it off with an absolute destruction of Pistons SF Anthony Tolliver, not to mention it was an and-1. Not only was this an amazing dunk, but it was an important play in the game. Most poster dunks aren’t in the dying seconds of the 4th quarter of a close game, but this one was, and it was also an awesome moment for me as a fan, and that’s why I’m giving it the Best Moment of the Season Award.
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