The Toronto Raptors may have had to say goodbye to Kyle Lowry after nine seasons, but they aren’t exactly deficient at the point guard position as a result of this move, as Fred VanVleet appears to be more than ready to take over the scoring load following No. 7’s departure.
VanVleet averaged 19.6 points and 6.3 assists per game last year, his first after signing a four-year contract that locks him in with Toronto through the 2023-24 season. Considering he was often the tertiary scoring option and struggled with shooting efficiency, those numbers point to the fact that VanVleet is one of the more underrated guards in the game.
VanVleet will be under the microscope this season, as he will likely move over to replace Lowry at the point guard spot while Gary Trent Jr. takes over the off-ball guard spot. It’s a new era, and it could force some schematic changes considering the slightly different styles of getting the job done on offense, but VanVleet is well equipped to start.
Nick Nurse already has confidence in VanVleet, calling him “big time” while hyping up his ability to replace Lowry as the starting point guard. What will a “big time” performance from VanVleet look like on his stat line?
Will Fred VanVleet succeed for the Toronto Raptors in 2020-21?
Even though Pascal Siakam had almost identical stats when compared to his 2019-20 season, a slight decline in scoring led to an avalanche of criticism from the wider basketball media, as baseless as some of those complaints sounded at times.
VanVleet needs to become either the primary or secondary scorer on this team, lest he gets pelted with barbs from that some detractors about his inability to play like Lowry.
Given the increased volume of shots he’ll likely be in line for and how much time he’ll spend with the ball in his hands, cracking 20 points and 7 assists per game should be what is expected of VanVleet this year.
From an efficiency point of view, making around 45% of his shots overall should be a solid average to aim for. His 37% success rate from 3-point range isn’t egregious, so improving his finishing around the rim could squad concerns about his shooting percentage, pump up that points per game average, and mitigate the damage of the Lowry loss.
On defense, just keep doing what you’re doing. He’s an elite player on that end who should only continue to improve.
VanVleet should be expected to top 20 points per game for the first time this year, and anything less than seven assists would be a bit of a disappointment considering his new role as both a primary creator and the engine that makes the offense run.
Those numbers, in addition to, his usual brand of stellar defense, could warrant some All-Star consideration if the Raptors back up his stats with wins. If anyone can replace Lowry, it’s someone with the same grit and determination.