No player in Toronto Raptors history has ever won two Eastern Conference Player of the Month awards in the same calendar year. In fact, before both Kyle Lowry (in January) and DeMar DeRozan (in April) did it earlier in 2015, the last player to receive the award was Chris Bosh way back in 2007.
It's not a particularly glamorous award in the NBA, and it is of course meaningless (unless you bang Drake's "Trophies" on the regular). For a franchise starved for attention, though, it's a nice-to-have -- and one player in particular seemed deserving of the honour in December.
Given his performances over the past month, where the Raptors went 9-6, DeMar DeRozan looked to be on track to receive the award. He averaged 25 points per game, shooting 47.1% from the field, getting to the line 8.5 times a game, and racking up 4.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. The heightened efficiency numbers are reflected in DeRozan's play on the court, which thankfully has bled into January. He's given more pause to shooting mid-range jump shots, instead finding crafty ways to get to the basket to finish or draw fouls. A look at his December shot chart shows the welcome rectangle of green, with percentages well over 50% in the lane and solid in his beloved mid-range.
More impressively, he's been able to step up and perform as Kyle Lowry has struggled with his shot. While Lowry is in no way the shadow we saw near the end of last season, he did go through a slump in December, shooting just 40.2% and 34.2% from deep (down from 42.1% and 42.0% in November, respectively). While the numbers don't indicate Lowry was a slouch (he's still deserving of an All-Star start), there was more pressure on DeRozan to score the basketball. He was, in every way, up to the task.
So, why then does John Wall get the award?
Investigating the matter, it appears that the reality distortion field of following the Raptors has made me somewhat ignorant of John Wall's performances over the past month. Perhaps slighted by an early All-Star voting return that put him well out of contention, but more likely turning up his play out of necessity due to Washington's injuries, Wall had a marvellous month. He averaged 22.6 points per game, shooting a torrid 46% from the field and still passing for 11.7 assists per game.
When you consider 33% of those assists were going to Jared Dudley and Garrett Temple, your eyes should be opening to the truth. There's truly little to argue with him winning this award, and not enough to consider DeRozan getting "snubbed". Considering this as an MVP-type award, where the team's success is equal to the individual accolades, Wall's ability to get the Wizards to 8-8 in December and keep his team in contention is enough to deserve it.
That said, even without the honours, it's as good a time as any to step back and marvel at how DeMar DeRozan has played over the last six weeks. While the Raptors have found success in different ways, having DeRozan as a night-to-night offensive threat has opened up the game for other players, and may be the biggest reason Toronto is at least in the hunt for the East's top seed.