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Let’s hand out the 2017-18 Raptors Mid-season Awards

We’re handing out a variety of awards to the Raptors including Most Valuable, Best Dunk and Best Moment from the first half of the season.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

With 41 games in the books for Toronto, and many highlights to remember, here are some mid-season awards for your 2017-18 Raptors.

Most Valuable Player: DeMar DeRozan

Is there really any question on this one? He’s already in the running for MVP of the NBA, so of course DeRozan is crowned the MVP of the Raptors through 41 games. His ability to become a de facto point guard in the absence of Kyle Lowry against the Cavs while maintaining tempo against the Warriors were not only amazing performances by his standards, they would be great showings by anybody tasked with running a team.

DeRozan looks like an entirely different player this season — his 3-point shot, his passing and patience when handling the ball are all revelatory for this offense and especially compared to who he was two years ago. I think it’s safe to say that fans finally see him as a legitimate superstar in the league after nine long years of growth.

Most Improved Player: Pascal Siakam

What a tough award to hand to just one player, simply because of the bench — clearly the biggest story line at the midway point. Forced to pick though, the most-improved player has to be Siakam. Look, everybody is playing unbelievable compared to last season. They were all rookies (Delon was basically a rookie), so all four players had nowhere to go but up. But, Siakam has consistently shown something more than the rest. He’s showing off his ability to fit into what the team needs on any given night.

Siakam has become an excellent play-maker in the front court thanks to his chemistry with Jakob Poeltl and Fred VanVleet, as well as a growing comfort handling the ball. His three-point shot still needs a ton of work — as evidenced by his 2-for-38 streak since the beginning of December — but nearly everything else that was a weakness last season is no longer a problem this year. He’s been great in his second season and fans have a lot to look forward to from the young Siakam.

Defensive Player of the Half-Year: Pascal Siakam

Another aspect that makes him the most-improved has also helped him become one of the most indispensable players on the entire team. Siakam has filled the role once thought to be occupied by Norman Powell — a Swiss Army Knife that can be placed on the opposing team’s toughest cover and succeed at the job of keeping them in check.

He’s starting to adopt Serge Ibaka’s signature chase-down block, becoming a menace for ball-handlers to get around, and has the athleticism to stay in front of a multitude of excellent scorers — including Kevin Durant just two nights ago.

The numbers back this up as well: Siakam has the best defensive rating (104) of any rotation player, as well as the second highest defensive box plus/minus (2.6) on the team.

Turning Point of the Half-Year

It was a brutal October and November for Serge Ibaka. He looked old, his shot looked off and his defense was porous at best. Many fans and writers were concluding that something was most definitely wrong. To put it simply, he looked awful and nobody had an answer.

Not surprisingly, the turning point of the Raptors’ season was the moment everything came together for Ibaka. It was December 1st, 2017 versus the Indiana Pacers; Ibaka looked better than he had all season as he chased down a streaking Bojan Bogdanovic before blocking his layup away.

Including that game, Ibaka would go on to post a +133 in the next 11 contests while simultaneously restoring everyone’s faith in his ability to be a game changer on the both ends of the court.

Dunk of the Half-Year

Washington came into town November 19th, just a couple weeks after handing the Raptors their most dispiriting loss of the season (in which Lowry was ejected). Raptors fans were annoyed and so were the players — we all wanted some payback. It was a great game that saw the score stay close all night.

It wasn’t until the final minute that the game was finally in the Raptors hands: the dunk of the year and win that followed were ultimately the confidence boost the entire team was searching for.

Here, DeRozan sticks the dagger through the heart of the Wizards’ hopes for victory with an emphatic dunk:

Shot of the Half-Year

What more can we say about DeRozan’s willingness to take and make three-pointers this season? Not much, admittedly. But, if there’s a single shot of his we will all remember, it was his corner three from the January 5th Bucks game when the Raptors reeled off one of the most dominant quarters of play in team history.

In that 12 minute frame, there was a single shot that somehow encapsulated the fan’s feelings of the Bucks as a team, of the haters south of the border, of four straight strikeouts in the post-season and of constantly having to prove time and again that this team is the real deal.

It was the turn-around three-pointer that was, in past years, a shot DeRozan had no business taking and the ultimate middle finger to every doubter on the planet.

He drained it and then followed it up with a smug stare straight at the Bucks’ bench, which sat speechless and defeated.

Moment of the Half-Year

Even the newest of fans felt something the night DeRozan broke the franchise record for points scored in a game. Everyone remembers the brilliance of Terrence Ross dropping countless three-pointers en route to 51 against the Clippers; it was flashy, unexpected and most definitely fun.

From the wintry Sunday in February of 2000 when Vince Carter dropped 51 points on the Phoenix Suns to New Year’s Day almost 18 years previous, a lot has happened for the Toronto Raptors.

But somehow, this historic night made an impression, more so than the previous marks had. It made me think all the way back to DeRozan’s friendship with Sonny Weems, and the way the two of them tried to outplay each other on the court by making one mid-range basket after another. The progress since those days has been incredible.

This night carried weight. It wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t a hot streak.

It was exactly who he is.

Game of the Half-Year

Name a better game than this:

Recency bias be damned — there’s nothing better than laying a beat down on LeBron.