Toronto Raptors: VanVleet has been good, but he can be much better

Toronto Raptors, Fred VanVleet (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors, Fred VanVleet (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /
Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors, Fred VanVleet (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

VanVleet has definitely gotten better with the Toronto Raptors over the years, but there is still one area of his game that needs a lot of work.

Fred VanVleet does a lot of things right. He can shoot, pass, play defense, and can be plugged into any situation. He played a big part in the Toronto Raptors championship run last year, hitting a big three after another. There is just one problem with VanVleet. He can’t score properly.

How can a player averaging 17 points not know how to score? Okay maybe saying he can’t score is a little harsh, he is a great three-point shooter and is not afraid to get to the line. That is where 63 percent of his points come from anyway, and he does it on great efficiency.

The closer the basket, the worst VanVleet is

The problems for VanVleet is everywhere else on offense, and it has gotten even worse with the increase in attempts. Here are VanVleet’s field goal percentages inside the three-point line, per Cleaning The Glass.

  • Shots at the Rim: 51%
  • Short Mid Range (4-14 feet): 17%
  • Long Mid Range: 33%

Yea, you read that right. 17 percent from the floater area. Ouch. Also shooting 51 percent from under the rim is not good either. It ranks under the 20th percentile in the league among combo guards, per Cleaning The Glass. Now you might scream at your tv screen “NOOO” when you see VanVleet driving to the basket.

So what would be a good percentage for a player the size of Fred VanVleet. Well, it’s easy, they are on the same team and he has already learned a lot from him, Kyle Lowry. Kyle Lowry’s numbers are obviously not the best in the league, but they are certainly good enough and should set the bar for an elite guard.

  • Shots at the Rim: 59%
  • Short Mid Range (4-14 feet): 43%
  • Long Mid Range: 40%

He shoots over league average under the rim, while also having a reliable shot in the floater area. The long mid-range can be better, but considering those are shots he only takes when there is no other choice, it’s good.

These are all attainable numbers for a guy like VanVleet. If he can even get his short mid-range to 40 percent and shots under the rim to at least 55 percent, it will make him that much better.

Of course, VanVleet is a player of his own and he’s not going to become the next Lowry for the Toronto Raptors, but improving his shot efficiency inside the three-point line is important.

After watching 100 shot attempts of VanVleet shooting it at the rim, here are his three biggest faults.

  1.  Misses easy layups even with an open driving lane
  2.  Tries for ridiculously hard layups when he doesn’t have the skillset for it
  3.  Drives in even when there is a big man and proceeds to get blocked

Now even his short mid-range attempts (floater area) suffer from the same faults. But there is one I’d add on the list:

4. Can’t make up his mind on what he wants to do and launches a desperation shot.

The long mid-range is less of a problem for me and is not a shot that should be taken all that much anyway. But to be a top guard in the league, being an elite finisher under the rim or at least in the floater range is a must.

We already know he plays like a modern NBA point guard, taking 45 percent of shots from deep, 38 percent of his shots under the rim, and only 17 percent of his shots from mid-range. Now it’s just about improving his inside scoring.

As of now, teams will be more than happy to let VanVleet drive to the basket and force him in an awkward position. It’s the weakest part of his game and until it gets improved, teams know what to expect of him when he drives.

If he can even improve to the level of Kyle Lowry, which seems realistic. VanVleet can easily jump from 17 points per game to over 20 points per game. This would open a whole lot of opportunities for VanVleet on offense. He’d be a threat from the three-point line as well as a legitimate threat when driving. Defenders would think twice before letting VanVleet past him.

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He’s already gotten much better in every other aspect in the game, and if he were to be an at least average finisher from under the rim to the floater area, then that can push VanVleet from a top 20 point guard to a top 10 point guard in this league (hopefully for the Toronto Raptors).