Toronto Raptors fans have heard a lot about Fred VanVleet this week, so why not sum up the obvious stuff first. He broke the franchise record for points in a game on Tuesday when he exploded for 54 big ones vs. the Magic.
He averaged 30 points a game this week, shooting 50% from three and making 21 of his 22 free throws. He set the record for most points scored by an undrafted player and became the 8th player 6-feet or shorter to score 50+ points in a game.
There is a direct correlation between VanVleet performing well on the offensive end and the Raptors reeling off wins in this difficult portion of the season. Even with all of their problems at the moment, VanVleet getting hot from deep like he was this week shows how lethal the Raptors can be when he’s cooking.
Fred VanVleet was dominant for the Toronto Raptors
Now that that’s out of the way here are some things one might not have realized.
Over the past few games, Nick Nurse has realized that his two best offensive players are not are VanVleet and Kyle Lowry. VanVleet’s ability to generate offense is more consistent than Pascal Siakam, who is better off in the Draymond Green role as the ultimate Swiss army knife role player.
Putting the ball in VanVleet’s hands more often has unlocked Siakam’s off-ball ability in ways we haven’t seen since the 2019 title run. It’s a perfect example of Nurse’s greatest strength as a coach, which is his adaptability. He’s not married to any one lineup or scheme or system, he’s malleable.
After Tuesday night’s explosion, VanVleet would have been ‘Raptor of the Week’ even if sat the rest of the week, but he had a strong night against the Hawks on Saturday with 25 points. Trae Young always gives Toronto problems, but VanVleet held his own. With Kyle Lowry on the block, VanVleet’s importance will continue to grow.
It’ll be interesting to see how far a VanVleet-centred offence can take the team, but so far so good. If nothing else, it’ll allow Siakam to be his best self out there. It’ll make the team more competitive, it’s just a question of how much.
VanVlewt rise from an undrafted player to a key role player on a champion was impressive enough, but the diminutive guard’s transformation into one of the game’s premier perimeter scorers is simply astonishing. If Toronto wants any hope of staying in the playoff hunt, VanVleet needs to stay assertive on offense.