Raptors: Fred VanVleet’s mid-range game is giving the offense a boost

The Toronto Raptors have put together a nice little win streak, as Fred VanVleet has helped the squad take home five straight after a sluggish 1-3 start to the season. Over the last five contests, VanVleet has averaged 22.2 points per game while connecting on 50% of his shots.

After the entire offense appeared to be in a funk to start the season, some rotation tweaks appear to have solved the issue for now, as Toronto has been white-hot of late. VanVleet had not only been one of the main reasons for that success but he’s done so while unveiling a new dimension to his offensive game.

VanVleet has long proven to be a solid shooter from 3-point range, but what he’s done this season is show more of a willingness to utilize a mid-range jumper. The results have been very encouraging, with Toronto’s exhilarating triumph against the Washington Wizards serving as one of the best offensive games we’ve seen from No. 23.

33 points and six assists is an impressive tally for VanVleet, but the fact that he accomplished that while unveiling a lethal mid-range game that he hasn’t always leaned on frequently throughout his career makes it even more startling. If he keeps this up, it could be a complete game-changer.

Toronto Raptors star Fred VanVleet is expanding his offensive game.

While the modern NBA has been slowly and ritualistically killing the long two-point jumper, Toronto is not afraid of utilizing that shot. After Wednesday night’s games concluded, Toronto ranked second in shots attempted between 15 and 19 feet, trailing only the Lakers. The Raptors are seventh in the league in field goal percentage from that range at 45.8%.

VanVleet, per Cleaning the Glass, is making 51% of his mid-range shots, which puts him in the 94th percentile across the NBA for point guards. Before this year, he never made more than 34% of his mid-range shots or placed better than the 27th percentile.

If the 3-pointer isn’t working, chucking up a bunch of them helps no one on the Raptors. On the other hand, picking up a clutch mid-range jumper could help collapse the opposing defense inside the line and leave some of VanVleet’s teammates wide open on the perimeter for easy 3-balls.

VanVleet doesn’t necessarily have to turn into prime DeMar DeRozan with how often he used the mid-range, but if he’s having difficulty getting to the rim, why not snipe your opponent to death from 16 feet away?

This season is all about evolution for the Raptors. If VanVleet is going to be the steady hand that guides this team for a half-decade, he needs to take that next step on offense, and owning this area of the court could help him do so while positively impacting Toronto’s win-loss record.