Toronto Raptors: It’s time to change the narrative on Fred VanVleet

Toronto Raptors - Fred VanVleet (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Fred VanVleet (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Fred VanVleet is fresh off the best performance of his life in the 2019 NBA finals. After his big-time moment, it’s time to change the way we talk about the point guard.

Imagine you were heading into work on whatever your profession’s biggest day of the year is. Let’s say you were a server at your cities best restaurant on Valentine’s day. You start and the whole place is packed with people who have had reservations booked for months. You’ve never worked a shift this busy, the owner of the restaurant is in the building watching your every move, this is the most important shift of your career.

But… you absolutely crush it, every dish comes out on time, every silly joke you make at a table goes over huge, everyone tips twenty-five percent on their cheque.

Now imagine the next day you go on yelp to see if anyone commented on your service and there’s a bunch of five-star reviews that mention you specifically. You’re stoked, but on a closer look you see that every positive review is prefaced by some weird slight about how you were built — “Our server was very small and moved slowly but he surprised us by doing a great job”, or “He definitely didn’t look like the type of person I wanted waiting my table, but he made our Valentine’s day special!”

This would probably fire you up quite a bit. You’d probably be a little annoyed that people felt the need to insult you even though you did a great job.

This has been the story of Fred VanVleet’s career.

He has excelled at every level of basketball. He was a first-team all-state selection as a senior in high school. In college, he won the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year award twice and led Wichita State to a final four appearance. Even before helping the Toronto Raptors win the NBA Championship, he led their G-league team to a title in 2017.

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However, before anyone mentions VanVleet’s achievements, they first need to note he’s not very tall, he’s not very fast, and that he went undrafted. Even last year people chalked up his fantastic NBA finals run to a motivational boost from the birth of his second child.

When people credited the child for Fred’s great finals stretch, he emphatically shut down the idea and jokingly said the kid deserves no credit. I think we all need to take the same approach to his career and stop adding qualifiers to his abilities.

Fred VanVleet shot 40-percent from three on 6.7 attempts during the NBA Finals, he played great defence on future Hall-of-Famer Stephen Curry, and he scored 12 points in the fourth quarter of an NBA finals elimination game to defeat the defending champion Golden State Warriors. That’s not good for an “undersized”, “unathletic” or “undrafted” player. That’s good for any player. Period.

VanVleet’s journey is a great story. He’s been defined by overcoming setbacks and failure, but that story has been told. Moving forward, the question won’t be about how he deals with setbacks, the question will be about how Fred deals with success.

This upcoming season will be the biggest of his career, both Fred and the man who starts in front of him, five-time All-Star Kyle Lowry’s contracts are set to expire at the end of the year. If VanVleet continues to display his high basketball IQ, continues to shoot near 40-percent from three, and keeps improving his defence, he’s due for a big payday.

The summer of 2020 may come down to the Toronto Raptors having to make a choice about which of the two point guards to keep.

The catchphrase for Fred’s signature clothing line is “bet on yourself”. Well if I were a betting man, I’d be betting on VanVleet’s ability to repeat the level of performance he showed in the finals on an every-night basis. Fred VanVleet will be a player who is hard to get rid of.

Next. Something every Raptors player can work on this offseason. dark

At the biggest day possible of his job, VanVleet showed up and served a five-star performance. Now, with more opportunity and spotlight available, VanVleet has the chance to show once again, he’s a very good basketball player, no qualifiers needed.