Which Toronto Raptor has been judged the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the past season? To answer that, we need to examine the body of work of our nominees, who are:
- Amir Johnson
- DeMar DeRozan
- I wish this list were longer
It’s a sad reflection of the Raps’ profoundly disappointing season that there are only two viable MVP candidates. Andrea Bargnani, who was a pre-season favourite for this award, didn’t have a breakout season – more like a break down one. None of the Rookie of the Year candidates, Jonas Valanciunas, Quincy Acy and Terrence Ross, is in the MVP conversation. Rudy Gay played half a season and didn’t put the team on his shoulders, or into the playoffs. Kyle Lowry started brilliantly, but injuries and spotty play sidelined his chances. So Amir and DD it is.
Amir’s stats are certainly more than respectable, and are a hefty leap from last year’s. Here’s the comparison:
Those of you who are good enough to read often know that I’m highly skeptical of deciding much of anything based on statistics. Of course, it’s equally brain-dead to ignore stats, but they are a starting point, not the destination. In every category (except Games Started, which is not in his control), Amir’s numbers are strong, and his value truly extends beyond numbers. If coach Casey needs AJ to cover the opponent’s toughest big man, he’ll do it. If coach wants to start a player just returning from injury, and someone needs to come off the bench, AJ never kicks up a fuss at being pushed out of the starting lineup. Who plays hurt, or dives after for loose balls, more than anyone? You know the answer. Amir developed a respectable 15-foot set shot (sorry, it’s not a jumper) to add to his limited offensive repertoire. Can you imagine where the Raps would have ended up this season without Amir’s contributions, game in and game out?
Let’s examine DD’s stats, compared to the previous season:
Improvement all around. Like Amir, DD shows up for work, come hell or high water.
His 3-point shooting is still unacceptable, both in percentage and quantity. DD did make 10 more than the previous season, but won’t be ready for entry into a discussion of the NBA’s top shooting guards until he averages at least one made 3-ball per game played. In short, 34 makes on 120 tries comes up well shy of what’s needed.
That said, DD’s game is gaining strength on the offensive side of the ball. He gets thumped in the press for inefficiency, and that’s a valid gripe. However, he’s learned to hit jump shots from 20 feet, and has gained the confidence to step back beyond the arc. I’d argue that DD doesn’t learn how to make the long ones without hitting the shorter ones first. He gets to the free throw line a ton, and is effective when he does.
Defensively, DD is adequate, and I doubt he’ll ever be more than that – but I hope I’m wrong.
OK, you’re read my analysis, and agree it’s a close battle. Time to open the envelope…..and the winner is…..
AMIR JOHNSON! [cue music and golden-throated voiceover man] accepting on behalf of Amir Johnson is Newmarket Brian.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.