Raptors: Is Fred VanVleet the best undrafted guard ever?

TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 16: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 16: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors have molded former Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet into one of the best scorers in the game, which is even more incredible than it sounds considering how improbable VanVleet’s rise to stardom has been. The 6-0 guard was undrafted out of college, and Toronto decided to take a flier on him and stick him in the G League.

VanVleet, who became the highest-paid undrafted free agent of all time when he signed a four-year, $85 million contract this offseason, has lived up to the lofty expectations Toronto placed on him, scoring 20.1 points per game and dishing out 6.6 assists per contest.

VanVleet let the whole basketball world know just how good he can be on any given day against the Orlando Magic, when he broke the Raptors’ franchise record for points in a single game by scoring 54 points. VanVleet did so with remarkable efficiency while helping a struggling Raptors team get back on the right track.

Lost in VanVleet’s outburst against the Magic was the fact that no undrafted player has ever scored more points in a single game, with VanVleet surpassing the great Moses Malone’s old record. While he’s nowhere close to Malone’s level right now, has VanVleet really become the best undrafted guard of ever?

Where does Raptors star Fred VanVleet rank among undrafted guards?

Some of VanVleet’s competition for this award includes former Phoenix Suns role player Raja Bell, former Sixth Man of the Year Darrell Armstrong, a terrific San Antonio Spurs point guard in Avery Johnson, and New York Knicks fan favorite John Starks. If VanVleet keep scoring almost 20 points per game, however, he could score at a clip none of those four have reached.

While Bell had some solid season as an archetypal 3-and-D win on Mike D’Antoni’s Suns, he never approached the type of scoring output VanVleet can provide. While Armstrong, a D-II walk-on who carved out a 15-year career, was the orchestrator of some tough, competitive Orlando Magic teams, he never contributed to a champion in the way VanVleet did.

Not only does Johnson have a championship ring, but he was the tempo-setter for some terrific Spurs teams, and VanVleet needs a few more years before he can overtake him. Starks never won a title, but he was one of the best guards of the 1990s, serving as Patrick Ewing’s sweet-shooting counterpart.

An All-Star, All-Defensive team selection, and one of the most iconic players on one of the most iconic teams ever, Starks likely holds the title of best undrafted guard ever, though VanVleet could potentially top him if he keeps playing at this level.

VanVleet might need a few more years of consistent play before he could pass Starks and Johnson, but he appears to be well on his way. Passing Malone, however, likely isn’t coming anytime soon.

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