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HQ Mailbag: Determining the Raptors’ MVP and considering the fan vote

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For this week’s HQ Mailbag, we revisit a question from last week, and truly consider: who is Toronto’s MVP so far?

Suspension Journal: Toronto Raptors all-time team honors, Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the #HQMailbag. With my winter break behind me, it’s time to answer more Raptors questions. As always, it’s open forever: tweet @RaptorsHQ with the hashtag #HQMailbag and I’ll definitely see it.

This week, given the timing (and the lack of calls for questions), we’ve only got one to answer. But, it’s a good one, and it gives us a chance to stretch our legs and really do some thinking. Let’s go.

“Last night’s unwatchable debacle” here refers to a Jan. 3 game in San Antonio. I agree that it got unwatchable early, a disappointment I hoped the Raptors could avoid. Reaction was swift and sometimes angry. Reynolds decided to write about karma, since now coach Dwane Casey and DeMar DeRozan have walked away with devastating victories against their former franchise. I agree.

And “last night’s unwatchable debacle” didn’t have Kyle Lowry in the lineup. That’s right, Mitch is saying that Lowry is the MVP of this rendition of the Raptors.

How do we get to that point in January? How can we say that when he and Kawhi Leonard have almost been swapping places in the lineup? We haven’t seen the Raptors’ peak, and I think that’s when we could point at an actual MVP. Or we could do this.

Look at this really short, clickbait-y Maxim article from the end of the 2014-15 season. I think they have some great categories for determining how best to consider the NBA’s Most Valuable Player — or in this case, the Raptors’ MVP.

Anyways, let’s look at these categories, and list some finalists. Sound off in the comments if you disagree, I guess.

If the MVP is the best player on the best team or the player who had the best year:

  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Kyle Lowry
  • Pascal Siakam

If the MVP is the most indispensable player

  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Kyle Lowry
  • Pascal Siakam
  • Danny Green (Take a look at the +/-)

If the MVP is the best stat stuffer:

  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Kyle Lowry’s placement on the charges drawn leaderboard; he’s just showing off at this point

If the MVP is simply the best player:

  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Last year, this was Kyle Lowry

If the MVP is the most valuable player in monetary terms:

  • We can prorate Pascal Siakam’s $1,544,951 annual salary, per Basketball-Reference, and see that his 4.8 win shares thus far given how much he has been paid is atop the Toronto Raptors’ leaderboard.

Looking back at this clearly rudimentary list, Kawhi appears four times, Kyle and Pascal three times, and Danny Green once. Reiterating: I’m willing to hear some other opinions in the comments.

But here’s the real kicker for Kawhi Leonard—ugh, that reminded me of the Detroit game against Casey—and it’s called the Fan Vote. Now, the fan vote for MVP is underrated. (It is maybe a little overrated for the All-Star Game, but that’s a mailbag for another time.)

At the end of big games, at the end of not-so-big games, fans chant “M-V-P, M-V-P, M-V-P!” It happens typically as the player-in-question shoots free throws. We sometimes overlook its significance. Fans don’t do that for just anyone. I think fans reserve that for the cream of the crop. Kawhi Leonard is the best player on the Toronto Raptors this season. It took two games for him to get MVP chants.

And Kyle Lowry is really important, too. As the Raptors’ two best players work things out, and they build a certain comfort level, and it builds towards the postseason, we’re going to hear the Scotiabank Arena fans chant for their MVP. And accounting for the fact that Raps fans are going to want to see Kawhi Leonard in a Raptor uniform next season, I figure we hear more chants for the Klaw, not KLOE.

Maybe it’s not that easy to determine, but it certainly can be that way. I just want everyone to remember that there’s a particular energy to a Lowry + bench lineup that isn’t necessarily there with a Leonard + bench lineup, given comfort level.

Either way, Kawhi Leonard is the Toronto Raptors’ MVP. And I love Kyle Lowry. I want Kawhi around next year, so I have to come to that conclusion. Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor, and that’s pretty damn cool.