Season is over, time to hand out the silverware.
The “Fredo, you broke my heart!” Award
Andrea Bargnani. You broke my heart. Chris Bosh wasn’t here to “hold you back” and in his absence you responded by letting a second year player make this his team over you. Sure, the points increased but the criticism against you never was your offense. You increased your scoring average by 3.8, but your rebounding went down by a full 1 rebound! How can this be? We’d all be happier if you just maintained last year’s scoring average and improved your defense and rebounding. Fresh off signing a thoroughly undeserved contract we hoped you’d want to prove your friend and GM right, but you let everyone down, probably even Uncle Mo. Also, giving $#!% wouldn’t hurt either.
The “Didn’t see that coming” Award
James Johnson. Hey James, we know you’re just a happy scrub who can’t believe he’s actually starting in the league. It must feel like winning the lottery, I mean, rotting on the Chicago bench to playing 28 minutes a game? Good for you. When you were acquired we thought you’d be heading down to the D-League shortly, and you might still be, but in the meanwhile you’ve taken us by surprise. Maybe it’s because of Sonny Weems being a disappointment and the coach loathing Julian Wright that you’re seeing the light of day, still though, good on you for taking advantage and putting up some numbers. And hey! What other team team would let you handle the ball? Gotta love Raps, sign on the dotted line for a $35M/5-yr extension. The smart money’s on you replacing Andrea in next season’s promos.
The “Jason Kapono” Award
Linas Kleiza. The early favorite to win this comes through as the curse of Colangelo’s mid-level exception strikes again. Let me get this straight, he shoots 29.8% from downtown, can’t defend the three, gets over-powered at the four, and can’t take more than three dribbles. Let me spin this. He can post-up threes, take fours off the dribble and can get his shot off in less than three dribbles! I feel like Fox News. He was brought in here to be the starting small forward and was not a good fit because of his poor outside shooting and defense. He played better as a power forward off the bench (19.4 PER vs 15.2) because he could out-run his man in transition, and since it’s usually easier to make up for lack of height than lack of quickness, did decently on defense. This is a classic example of a bench-quality player being asked to play beyond his means in Toronto, just like Jason Kapono, Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli, Jamario…
The “Hooah!” Award
DeMar DeRozan. Nobody else was even nominated. Last season’s summer assignment was to improve his mid-range game and ball-handling. Let’s see how he did, mid-range game first. His shooting from 10-15 feet went up 15% to 46.6%, a massive improvement by any standard. Credit needs to be given to assistant coach Eric Hughes for working with DeRozan who is largely responsible for DeRozan’s new dimension on offense. On to ball-handling, turnovers aren’t a metric to determine how well a shooting-guard handles the ball (his turnovers per 100 plays is only .4% higher than last year), it’s what he can do with the ball once he’s dribbling it. Look to DeRozan’s assist numbers which reflect how well he’s able to control the ball, keep his head up (product of ball-handling) and make plays with it. His AST% increased by 3.7% to 8.6%, another significant increase and indication that DeRozan is aiming to be more than just a scorer looking to get his. If the theme of the year gone by was development, DeRozan was its shining emblem.
The “Don’t call it a comeback!” Award
Jose Calderon. Left for dead on the train tracks…err..I mean trading block, Jose Calderon didn’t take it as a slight that the Raptors didn’t want him. Instead, he waited for Jarrett Jack to make a fool of himself and when the starting job fell in his lap, he only had a younger, more inexperienced version of Jarrett Jack to beat. Job done. His return to the starting role meant more minutes and when Jose gets minutes he racks up assists, 8.9 to be exact, matching the average he had in 2008-09 before Jack got here. After an off year averaging only 5.9 assists, Jose Calderon increased his PER36 assists from 8 to 10.4 and also did a better job of pretending to keep his man at bay. The active hands behind the three-point line helped the team-leading assist numbers, but the side-effect playing guards right didn’t go unnoticed. His individual defense did improve from the year before, but only barely. All things considered he had a good year and only solidified my belief that he should be playing for a contending team which is better able to hide his weakness so his effective offensive talents don’t go wasted. This was a year of growth for Calderon too, he learned how to take risks and play the transition game, leading the Raptors to second in the league in fastbreak points averaging 18.0 (only behind GSW’s 18.8).
The “I Know What You Did Last Summer” Award
Sonny Weems. Why? Because we all know what Weems did last summer: $#!% all. Coming into a contract year and undeservedly blessed by the franchise as a core piece, you’d bank on him to take what’s handed to him on a silver plate and make the most of it. Weems let everyone down with his consistent play, and the one thing that he could do well, his jumper, also became inefficient. The PER36 scoring remained the same, but the field goal percentage took a dive – he went from shooting 51% to 44% which diluted the potency of his scoring punch. The defense didn’t stand out or even improve, and that’s saying a lot on a roster where everyone is defensively challenged. Weems had the physical tools to make a run for the starting three spot, or at least carve himself into the permanent rotation, neither of which he did partly due to injury, but mostly due to lack of focus or commitment.