After losing the team leader and face of the franchise in Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat this past offseason, the Toronto Raptors turned to none other than Fred VanVleet to claim the throne. After years of serving as an understudy and running mate to Lowry, Wichita State’s finest was ready to show just how much he’s improved.
Taking on a reformed role this season, VanVleet has exceeded expectations, morphing into an All-Star level player that has been one of the main reasons Toronto has leaped out to a 7-6 start.
13 games into the season, VanVleet is leading the team in scoring, putting up the best rebounding numbers thus far in his career, and exhibiting a high rate of efficiency, all while adjusting to a completely new role.
In a Thursday night victory against the 76ers, VanVleet managed to tally 32 points, including one lethal 3-pointer near the end of the game that all but ended Philadelphia’s hope of a comeback, to go along with six rebounds and seven assists.
If he keeps this up, he could end up honoured as an All-Star in Cleveland.
Toronto Raptors star Fred VanVleet is getting even better.
VanVleet didn’t enter the league in the most expected or traditional way. He went undrafted and was selected to fill the Raptors’ final spot on the 15-man roster in 2016. Since then he has created quite the resume for himself.
He won an NBA title in only his third season, currently holds the Raptors’ franchise record for most points in a game (54), and can claim to have most three-pointers made off the bench in an NBA Finals (16).
Speaking of the Finals, VanVleet played a huge part in the Raptors winning a championship that year, coming up clutch against Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals while playing a key role on both ends of the floor.
After establishing himself as a starter and an invaluable part of the organization, VanVleet signed the biggest contract by an undrafted free agent in NBA history worth $85 million over four years.
To see him go from competing for a roster spot to being an NBA champion and now the team leader is a joyous sight for Raptors’ fans. This season he is averaging 19.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 7.1 assists per contest while near the top of the league in deflections per game.
The floor general had an impressive start to Thursday night’s game against Philadelphia. VanVleet began with 15 points while shooting 3-for-3 from the arc. VanVleet’s dagger of a 3-ball, along with the one by Gary Trent Jr. just before, sealed the deal while continuing to cement VanVleet’s status as a clutch player, leader, and All-Star.
VanVleet is off to an incredible start as the Raptors’ leader and primary point guard, so much so that Fred himself has eyes on becoming an All-Star, being on the NBA All-Defensive team, and much more.
“I definitely would like to be an All-Star,” said VanVleet. “I want to win all the awards. I want to be All-Defensive … Those are all goals that I have. The good thing for me is that I probably won’t achieve any of those if we aren’t a good team or a top team.”
“I’m feeling OK about how we have started as a team and myself personally. I am OK with where I am at, but I could be playing a lot better for myself and to just try and impact the game a little bit more in terms of wins and losses,” VanVleet said.
The future is bright for Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors.
Although VanVleet has high personal aspirations, he remains focused on leading the team back to a winning environment. Who would have known that the 6-0 undrafted guard from Wichita State would become the player he is today?
If VanVleet maintains this quality form, he could very well become an NBA All-Star. With Kyrie Irving sitting out and several perennial All-Star players not starting the season as crisp as one would’ve hoped, the idea of VanVleet coming up from the rear and nabbing a spot is becoming more realistic.
With VanVleet having proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a natural-born leader, hard worker, and possible successor to Lowry, it’s fair to say that Raptors’ fans are in good hands.