I’m mulling the results of the voting for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award, which is the only one in which the Toronto Raptors had a player (well, players actually) who received some top-ten votes. Kyle Lowry finished sixth, and DeMar DeRozan eighth, well behind winner Goran Dragic, the Phoenix Suns’ point guard. No Raptor garnered a single vote for Defensive Player of the Year, won by Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls. [20-second timeout: Honour is due to coach Dwane Casey, who finished fifth in Coach of the Year voting. While Gregg Popovich was a worthy winner (his San Antonio Spurs were a league-best 62-20), one wonders whether our coach shouldn't have finished higher. Our team improved by 14 games over last season, and without a defensive stalwart, our D ranked ninth. Our team plus/minus was plus_3.2, which also ranked ninth, and represents the most important "snapshot" datapoint.] Our guys won’t be garnering much consideration for any of the other hardware the Association is due to hand out, like Most Valuable Player. That bauble is being shined up for Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and LeBron James will get all the second-place votes. We have no Rookie of the Year candidates, as we had no rookies! Sadly, there’s no prize for Sophomores, or Jonas Valanciunas would be in the running. Anyway, I think it’s time to recognize that star power is over-rated, and a balanced lineup is as likely to lead to success as searching for a needle in a haystack, i.e., a superstar. Those guys are extremely rare, insanely expensive and ruinous to a team’s chances if they are injured (cf., Los Angeles Lakers, whose season crashed and burned when Kobe Bryant went down).
What was the critical decision of the season for the Raptors? Surely The Trade ranks #1. We shipped Rudy Gay (and two others) to Sacramento, and received in return four rotation-grade players. If one believes the cliche which says that whichever team gets the best players wins the trade, then we got badly burned. But we didn’t, did we? We traded a (perceived?) star when our record was 6-12, and proceeded to win 42 of our last 64 games.
I doubt any Raptor player wins an individual award in the next three years, but I suspect we’ll be in the playoffs. I’ll take that trade-off, every time.