Toronto Raptors: What Does Fred VanVleet’s Injury Mean For Raptors?

Toronto Raptors - Fred VanVleet (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Fred VanVleet (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

With Fred VanVleet being ruled out for up to three weeks, we break down the impact his absence could have on the Toronto Raptors.

Monday was an eventful day for the Toronto Raptors. It was announced that Toronto would sign Jeremy Lin once his buyout with Atlanta was finalized. In addition, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN also announced Fred VanVleet would miss at least three weeks with a “partial ligament injury to his left thumb.”

There is never an ideal time for an injury especially with the Raptors gearing up for their stretch run. However, VanVleet will only miss two games before the All-Star break and should only miss five games after. Two likely return dates are March 5 vs Houston or March 8 in New Orleans.

VanVleet is currently averaging 10.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. With Delon Wright no longer on the team, the 24-year old is currently the only other point guard on the roster. What does Fred VanVleet’s injury mean for the Toronto Raptors moving forward?

Expanded Role for Jeremy Lin

Jeremy Lin is likely going to have a large role when he joins the team. If he is officially bought before Wednesday the 30-year old will make his debut Wednesday against Washington. However, Lin may have to wait until after the All-Star break to suit up for his new team.

Lin is currently averaging very similar numbers to VanVleet. He is scoring 10.7 points and 3.5 assists per game. His ability to change pace instantly and drive to the basket will be very important.

The 30-year old is also a high IQ basketball player. He is very solid in transition which will complement the Raptors’ free-flowing offense very nicely. Lin also possesses sound shot-creating ability.

As the only other active point guard on the roster, Lin will receive a high volume of minutes. However, do not expect coach Nurse to overwork him.  The former Atlanta Hawk has a lengthy injury history and the team cannot afford to lose another point guard.

Creative Lineups

The Jeremy Lin signing looked attractive even before the announcement of VanVleet’s injury. Having traded Delon Wright at the deadline the Raptors no longer have the luxury of three true point guards.

VanVleet was averaging 26.8 minutes per game pre-injury. It seems highly unlikely that Lin will step in and absorb all of VanVleet’s workload. That would be an almost eight-minute increase.

In the meantime coach Nurse and company are going to have to get creative. An unorthodox theory would be having Pascal Siakam run portions of the secondary offense.

Siakam does not need to be the primary ball handler to run the point. Norman Powell, Danny Green, and OG Anunoby are all capable ball handlers. However, in today’s positionless NBA Toronto’s offense could easily run through Siakam.

The 24-year old is like a Swiss Army Knife. He has a tool for everything. Siakam’s length, IQ, and vision make him a premier passing big man.

Toronto could deploy a lineup consisting of Siakam, Powell, Green, Anunoby, and Ibaka. These five could spread the court very nicely.  Serge Ibaka could also play in the middle or if the Raptors go small Anunoby can play in the high post.

The Raptors’ current lack of point guard depth will give others the opportunity to step up. This is exactly what our next point is.

Next Man Up

Toronto has dealt with the injury bug all year. Every time the team has dealt with an injury someone has stepped up to fill the void.

The Raptors are going to miss VanVleets production. Luckily the All-Star break will account for a significant portion of his time away. However, someone on Toronto’s second unit is going to need to step up.

Norman Powell is a prime candidate to lead the bench in VanVleet’s absence. The 25-year old is quietly putting together a career-best season. Powell is finally beginning to find some consistency in his game and an increase in minutes could do him wonders.

Another player who could benefit from VanVleet’s absence is Patrick McCaw. The 23-year old has little to show in his limited minutes through 10  games with the Raptors. Perhaps Toronto’s coaching staff will throw him a bone before the All-Star break.

McCaw did, however, have his best performance in a Raptors uniform Monday night. He scored 13 points on  5-9 shooting. He also added three rebounds. Production like this from McCaw on a consistent basis would be a bonus for the Raptors.

Expect OG Anunoby to hit his stride soon too. There is perhaps no better time than the present for the 21-year old to start building some consistency.

It will be interesting to see how Chris Boucher, Jordan Loyd, and Malcolm Miller fit into the rotation. Both Loyd and Boucher have usually only played in “garbage time” scenarios. Miller, on the other hand, will be returning to the NBA for the first time since last season.


The Raptors dodged a major bullet here. There would have been more reason to panic if VanVleet’s diagnosis was more severe. However, the combination of the All-Star break and a favorable schedule are both important for Toronto.

Raptors fans can relax knowing that VanVleet will be back and healthy before the Postseason. Meanwhile, the team will have to figure out how to piece the puzzle in his absence.  Coach Nurse and his staff will continue to experiment until they can find the best lineup combinations.

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The Toronto Raptors take on the Washington Wizards Wednesday evening. Expect a tightly contested battle between two Eastern Conference foes.