Dec 14, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) and guard Alan Anderson (6) and forward Amir Johnson (15) before play resumes against the Dallas Mavericks at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Mavericks 95-74. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Time to award the Oak for Most Improved Player to....

The Toronto Raptors didn’t show the Great Leap Forward which was anticipated this past season. In fact, it’s hard to find even baby steps from a season of huge disappointment. That’s the team I’m referring to – let’s take a look at some individual players to see which one did advance the furthest over the ’11-’12 season.

Apr 14, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Raptors forward Alan Anderson (6) scores over Brooklyn Nets guard MarShon Brooks (9) at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

There aren’t many nominees. Rookies are excluded, of course, and as I make the rules, I’m going to eliminate from consideration players in their first season as Raps. So Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields can’t make the ballot. Obviously neither can players who regressed (Andrea Bargnani is the glaring example; Aaron Gray slipped in all categories), or who were injury-riddled, like Linas Kleiza.

That leaves us to consider:

  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Amir Johnson
  • Alan Anderson

I think we’ll need to eliminate Alan from the discussion. His 3-point percentage dropped from almost 40 to 33, dragging down his overall FG% slightly. While his PPG average climbed to 10.7, it took him a lot more shots for that 1.1 extra points. He barely held serve, let alone improve. I still like him, but he’s going to have a serious position battle at training camp to stay with the big club.

DeMar achieved career highs in PPG (18.1), Free Throw Attempts & Makes, Rebounds, and 3-point percentage (still an unacceptable 28.3, but trending the right way, particularly late in the year). I was impressed by his fearless drives to the basket, which didn’t result in injury, or deter him from ranking #4 in the NBA in Minutes Played. While his game has weaknesses, he’s only 23 years old, and further improvement is not out of the question. DD meshed nicely with Rudy Gay upon the latter’s arrival, despite initial skepticism from the pundit community.

Apr 12, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors center-forward Amir Johnson (15) dunks against Chicago Bulls center Nazr Mohammed (48) at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Chicago 97-88. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Amir’s number took a significant leap from ’11-’12, which isn’t hard, given how disappointing that season was for him. His critical Power Forward-type numbers were solid, like 1.4 Blocks and 7.5 Rebounds PG. Fun stat: Amir’s 5 made 3-balls was more than his entire career’s prior total. A new offensive weapon is unveiled – Amir from outside the stripe!

Apr 17, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots over Boston Celtics center Fab Melo (13) during the fourth quarter at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Celtics 114-90. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

OK, roll those tympani – it’s time for the envelope. The winner of the Oak for Most Improved Player is [pregnant pause]…

DeMar DeRozan!!

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.



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Tags: Alan Anderson Amir Johnson DeMar DeRozan NBA Toronto Raptors

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