Let’s start with the exciting and in no way awkward news: Fred VanVleet, the undrafted, undersized, and unheralded backup point guard for the Raptors, has been named one of three finalists for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
VanVleet, 24 years old, 195 pounds, and listed generously at six feet, was not really supposed to be here. As the legend goes, the senior guard out of Wichita bet on himself (and turned that into a merchandising opportunity along the way) and is now the heart and soul of Toronto’s bench unit.
In 76 games, VanVleet averaged 8.6 points, 3.2 assists, 2.4 rebounds, and 0.9 steals, while shooting 43 percent from the field and 41 percent from three, in 20 minutes per contest. Those digits maybe don’t pop as much as the other Sixth Man candidates (Eric Gordon and Lou Williams, both former winners), but we in Toronto know how valuable Fred actually is. The Bench Broskis, and by extension the Raptors, were never quite the same without him.
Now, the awkward news: as expected, Dwane Casey — along with Boston’s Brad Stevens and Utah’s Quin Snyder — is in the mix for Coach of the Year. [tugs nervously on collar]
I’ll just leave this here.
The NBA Awards will air on June 25 on TNT. It should prove to be, uh, interesting.