DPOY: OG Anunoby
It was very tempting to give this one to Barnes, but let’s not forget how well Anunoby was playing. He was already in All-Defensive Team conversations before his injury.
Barnes and OG have very similar styles on defense. These two switchable studs have length and strength for days, helping them to guard Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic in the same possession. The difference is OG doesn’t make the rookie mistakes off-ball Barnes sometimes does.
His time rehabbing his hip has been a real detractor from team success. Since he’s been out the Raptors’ defense has completely cratered. While the lack of big men is one reason for that, Anunoby’s ability to lock down anyone on any given night is also missing from the equation.
The sooner Toronto gets Anunoby back healthy, the sooner the Raptors can get back into the win column. That’s what a DPOY does for you.
MVP: Fred VanVleet
There hasn’t been enough talk about how good VanVleet has been this year.
His numbers don’t look too different than last year’s. He is averaging 19.7 points per game and 6.7 dimes per contest. All good stuff. His stats have taken slight bumps up across the board, the most significant of which is his shooting percentage. This has gone from 39% in 2020-21 to 44% this year. As a small guard, that’s not bad at all.
2021-22 has been so much more than just the stats with VanVleet. Doubters had plenty of questions entering the first year without Kyle Lowry on the team since 2012 about VanVleet’s ability to conduct this offense in a Lowry-like form.
That’s a skill much harder to encapsulate in a number or a highlight. It’s something that can rarely be taught. It’s almost a philosophy. It takes confidence, poise, trust, and fierce intelligence. A player must have complete control of themselves before they can control a team.
That’s why Fred has been the Raptors’ MVP for this first part of the season. Not because his numbers have been good (though they have been), nor because his percentages have become much more respectable. He deserves it because he’s been the man to run the show.
He is Toronto’s leader now when the chips are down. He’s the guy who creates shots for the rest of the team. He’s threatening to make an All-Star team this year, and if the team can get a few more wins under their belt, he very well should.