ESPN will be wrapping up their 2009-2010 seaon predictions series. The last item on the docket is the eventual NBA Champion. They have looked at everything from rookie if the year, best newcomer and team in turmoil.
All of their predictions got me wondering about the Raps. If things go well this year what awards could possibly end up being presented at the ACC? Well, there are six major awards for players: MVP, Defensive Player, ROY, COY, 6th Man and Most Improved Player. Do the Raps have realistic candidates for these awards?
Let's take a look.
1. MVP: The only real candidate here is CB4, and in all honestly him winning the MVP this upcoming season seems like a bit of a long shot. Heading into last season CB4 started out like a man possessed and he was posting some serious numbers. As the season wore on however, he couldn't keep up the pace. In order for him to garnish serious consideration for the MVP two things need to happen - he will need to have a season where he plays at a level we had not yet witnessed with any regularity and secondly, the team will have to win (way) more than expected. In his favour, BC has added enough talent this summer that Bosh shouldn't have to carry so much of the load night in and night out. This season Bosh shouldn't burn out. Will the extra energy result in a career year and possible hardware? It's a stretch. Possible MVP: 10%
2. Defensive Player: Although I believe this team will be much better defensively than in seasons past it's hard to pick out any one individual on the current roster and tab them as a possible Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Antoine Wright is no Bruce Bowen and Bargnani is no Howard. Possible Defensive Player of the Year: 1%
3. Rookie of the Year: This award was covered off in the ESPN series. The consensus, to no-one's surprise, is that Blake Griffin will win this award without question. Seems fair. He will be an impact guy right away. DeMar DeRozan didn't get a single vote, but are the voters writing this guy off to early? At this point it appears that DD will have every opportunity to earn his way into the starting line-up. If he does manage to secure the starting 2 guard spot who is to say he won't surprise? If attending summer league showed me anything it was that DD is less of a project than I expected. As we discussed during our reports from Vegas, his mid-range game is solid and his ability to come-off screens and get easy looks is something that should serve him well when the competition is much stiffer. DD could surprise this season and open up a few eyes. Will he have a season comparable to what is expected from Griffin? No and Griffin will win this award. Could DeRozan be in the mix when people discuss this season's best rookies? I can see it. Possible Rookie of the Year: 10%.
4. Coach of the Year: Can you imagine a Canadian born coach winning Coach of the Year in his first full season as Head Coach for Canada's lone NBA franchise? It may not be as far fetched as it seems. With all of the new talents on this season's roster if this team has a strong training camp, gels and then manages to get through the tough schedule early with something to show for it then to quote KG, "Anything is possible!". What would it take for Triano to be mentioned as a COY candidate, let alone win it? I would say a top three finish in the East. It's definitely a tall order and it would require finishing ahead of one of Orlando, Boston or Cleveland but that's why they play the games, right?Possible Coach of the Year: 15%.
5.6th Man: When you look at the Raps roster the most obvious candidate for the 6th Man Award is Jarrett Jack, and of all of the awards this one doesn't seem like such a longshot. Jack will be used at both the 1 and the 2 guard spots and should see a good number of minutes as a result. Jack will be the leader of the Raps second unit but will also see some time with the starters. This teams second unit, or lack thereof, has been a big liability in the past. If JJ can turn the Raps second unit into a distinct advantage there is no reason why he shouldn't find himself in the conversation for NBA 6th Man. Jack can not only score but also distribute and defend..all things you want from your first guy off the pine. League wide there are a lot of other candidates for this award, but if the Raps do manage to surprise there's no doubt in my mind that this will be as a result of strong bench play and recognition should be forthcoming. Possible 6th Man: 20%.
6. Most Improved: Despite his strong play in the second half of last season, Andrea Bargnani only received one 3rd place vote for this award. This could change this season. Andrea is now front and center and a key member of the Raptors. Unlike last summer there has been no major acquisition in the front-court to push Bargnani to the bench. He is the starting centre for this team and he needs to perform accordingly. For Bargnani to be considered for this award he will not only have to continue to be an offensive weapon but also show significant improvement on the glass and defensively. Is the big man ready to take another step in his development? All Raps fans are curious to see how Andrea kicks off the season with a new extension in hand and no-one pushing him for PT. Will he step up like Danny Granger did last season? Possible Most Improved: 15%.
The other major award that might be in the cards this upcoming season is Executive of the Year. If the Raps do have a successful season could BC win yet another Executive of the Year Award? With all these changes a 50+ win season would almost guarantee it. BC has completely remade the roster and should reap the benefits should this team finish high in the Eastern Conference standings.