The Toronto Raptors underwent a seismic shift in the backcourt this season, as Kyle Lowry departed for the Miami Heat in a move that left Fred VanVleet standing alone as the main point guard and de facto emotional leader of this team.
On the surface level, VanVleet looks almost too perfect with regard to finding a replacement for Lowry. Not only does he have years of experience with the Raptors and skill as a ball-handler, but his ability to lock down on defense and rise up from 3-point range could help him create a decent facsimile of Lowry’s production.
While that is all well and good, VanVleet knows that this position is more than just scoring 20 points a night. You need to keep this team calm, cool, and collected when crisis strikes and motive them with a fiery disposition when the need arises. Based on what we heard at Media Day, he sounds more than willing to assume this role.
VanVleet said that the biggest issue for him this season will be related to what he does on the court. Considering that replacing the locker room’s most respected voice, vocal leader, and calming presence is a task that you can’t just pick up and be great at instantly, VanVleet checking those boxes is an encouraging sign.
Fred VanVleet is ready to lead the Toronto Raptors.
VanVleet averaged 19.6 points and 6.3 assists per game last year while playing his usually excellent brand of defense. The Raptors shouldn’t worry about VanVleet suddenly starting to feel the heat and shrinking under the pressure, as it sounds like he is in the right frame of mind to step into the role Lowry vacated.
VanVleet has totally tuned out anyone who said that he is incapable of fulfilling this promise, claiming that he “stopped valuing non-basketball people’s opinion a long time ago.”
VanVleet mentioned that in addition to the Raptors’ coaching staff and front office, Lowry has been serving as a bit of a mentor as the Wichita State product prepares for this challenge.
VanVleet has always been an aggressive personality in the sense of taking on difficult challenges head-on. Usually, he comes out the other end smelling like a rose. It takes a special kind of player and person to replace and replicate Lowry, but VanVleet appears to be built for this.
If he becomes more efficient as a finisher and facilitator, not only will VanVleet become a quality starting point guard, but he may get some All-Star love.