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With the drama and excitement of the NBA Playoffs in full swing, basketball fans have been treated to quality performances from the league’s best over the past few weeks. While we watch the stories unfold on the court, legacies are being forged off it as the 2020-2021 NBA Awards have been handed out recently.
Nikola Jokic blew the competition out of the water as he was crowned league MVP. Rudy Gobert cemented his status as the NBA’s most dominant defender with his third Defensive Player of the Year Award. LaMelo Ball silenced his doubters with an impressive all-around game, capturing the Rookie of the Year award. Julius Randle led a rejuvenated Knicks team to the playoffs on his way to earning the Most Improved Player award.
No Raptors were recognized or nominated for any of this year’s major awards – Kyle Lowry was in the running for Teammate of the Year – but Toronto does have a history of taking home some hardware for standout individual performances over the years. Let’s take a look at the Toronto Raptors’ trophy cabinet.
Kawhi Leonard – NBA Finals Most Valuable Player – 2018-2019
With no NBA MVP winner in franchise history, Leonard’s Finals MVP Award is arguably the most significant one to be handed out in the North. Kawhi led the Raptors to their first finals appearance, and subsequent championship, with a tremendous playoff run. He averaged 28.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists, two steals and 1.2 blocks, while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from three in 40.5 minutes-per-game on his way to his second-career Finals MVP award. A legendary run from an all-time player.
Pascal Siakam – NBA Most Improved Player – 2018-2019
Siakam added the cherry on top of a memorable season when he received the Most Improved Player award following the Raptors’ championship victory. The native of Cameroon made a huge jump as a starter in his third year, improving significantly on each major statistical category.
Siakam and Leonard made history in the 2019 playoffs, tying Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for second-most points scored by a duo in a postseason with 1,187 points.
NBA Rookie of the Year
Damon Stoudamire – 1995-1996
While Toronto was very bad in their inaugural NBA season, a young lottery pick out of Arizona brought some fun and excitement to pro basketball’s newest market. Damon Stoudamire, nicknamed “Mighty Mouse” due to his diminutive 5-foot-10 frame, showed some offensive flair and solid outside shooting on his way to earning the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award. Scoring 19 points-per-game and dishing out 9.3 assists-per-game while shooting at a 39.5 percent clip from deep, Stoudamire became the first star in Raptors franchise history and got the ball rolling in the Six.
Vince Carter – 1998-1999
Vince Carter took the league by storm when he entered in the lockout-shortened season of 98-99. Vinsanity wasted no time in rising to stardom, dunking and shooting his way into the hearts of Raptors’ fans. In 35.2 minutes-per-game, Carter averaged 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and three assists while starting all but one game in the regular season. VC’s rookie season set the table for the franchise’s first successful run, officially putting Toronto on the NBA map and claiming millions of new Canadian basketball fans.
Lou Williams – NBA Sixth Man of the Year – 2014-2015
Acquired via trade from Atlanta in June 2014, Lou Williams made the most of his time in his short stint with Toronto. In 80 appearances, all off the bench, Lou Will averaged 15.5 points-per-game, shooting 40.4 percent from the field and 34 percent from three-point range as a high-volume shooter and heat-check scorer. Williams played a big role in making the Raptors the fourth-highest scoring team in the NBA that season, on his way to earning his first of three Sixth Man of the Year awards. Along with the hardware, his strong season is forever immortalized in Drake’s song “6 Man”.
NBA Coach of the Year
Sam Mitchell – 2006-2007
Sam Mitchell led the Raptors to their first ever Atlantic Division title with a 47-35 record. Mitchell’s squad was well-balanced, posting a net rating of +1.1, 10th best in the league that year, and was led by star forward Chris Bosh. Toronto went on to lose in six games to the New Jersey Nets in the first round of the playoffs. These days, you can find Sam Mitchell on TSN’s broadcast of Raptors games.
Dwane Casey – 2017-2018
Under Casey, the Raptors finished in first place in the Eastern Conference for the first time in franchise history, after years of topping the Atlantic division. With a 59-23 record, Toronto posted the league’s second-best offensive rating (113.8) and fifth-best defensive rating (105.9). After beating the Washington Wizards in six games in the first round of the playoffs, the Raptors succumbed to LeBron James and the Cavs in the next round, a familiar trend in the Casey era. Despite the Coach of the Year honour, Casey was fired in the following off-season.
Nick Nurse – 2019-2020
Many were surprised when Nick Nurse was not awarded the COTY award after guiding the Raptors to a championship as a rookie bench boss in 2019. Voters did not make the same mistake twice as Nurse was crowned the top coach in the NBA in the following season. Expected to take a step back after losing Kawhi Leonard in free-agency, Nurse led Toronto to an even better winning percentage than the prior season. A dramatic Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs kept the Raptors from potentially repeating as champions.
Bryan Colangelo – NBA Executive of the Year – 2006-2007
Colangelo was hired as General Manager of the Raptors in 2006, and wasted no time getting to work on building a successful team around young star Chris Bosh. Colangelo made bold trades and even bolder choices in the draft, selecting Andrea Bargnani #1 overall in the 2006 NBA Draft. In his first season at the helm, Toronto secured the first seed in the Atlantic division for the first time in team history along with Coach of the Year Sam Mitchell.