Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors started the season as one of the worst offensive teams in the league. Nick Nurse was leaning on his highly switchable defense to carry this team to wins. While the offense has managed to turn the corner in recent weeks, the defense has been genuinely putrid.
Toronto has won just three of their last 11 games, and they’ve held opponents to 100 points or fewer in just one of those games. In their first nine games, they managed to hit that milestone five times. Despite the return of Pascal Siakam, the defense has fallen into a massive slump.
One of the primary reasons for this is the fact Toronto is such a young team. With so many rookies and second-year players earning rotation time, some of the defensive performances haven’t been as crisp as Nurse would’ve liked. VanVleet challenged his team to pick up the pace on that end.
VanVleet, currently leading the league in minutes per game at just over 38 per contest, is trying to encourage his teammates to galvanize and get through this tough stretch.
Fred VanVleet believes the Toronto Raptors need to step their game up.
The Raptors have some issues with the construction of the roster at the moment. The team lacks a true big taller than 6-10, which is making rim protection very difficult. Their overaggression on the defensive end can often lead to opposing teams swinging the ball around the perimeter until they can find an open shooter.
Toronto’s rebounding numbers are better than they were last year, but they aren’t necessarily indicative of a team that is ready to solidify their playoff positioning. The Raptors have slid individual defenders, but the collective, unified effort has been missing at times this season.
VanVleet needs to step up and become a leader now that Kyle Lowry is in Miami, and quotes like these may end up being the magic formula that kicks this team in the rear and helps them turn things around.
The Raptors have a serious identity crisis on their hands. They built their team with an emphasis on perimeter defense, yet they have one of the worst perimeter defenses in the league over the last few weeks. Hopefully, quotes like this one from VanVkeet get things turned around.