How concerned should the Raptors be about Fred VanVleet’s injury?

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MARCH 11: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - MARCH 11: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors have been reeling off some fairly impressive wins over the last few weeks despite Fred VanVleet popping in and out of the lineup. The knee issues that plagued him near the end of the first half appear to have gotten more pronounced as the season progressed.

With 21.0 points and 6.8 assists per game, VanVleet has shown that his first-ever All-Star selection was by no means fraudulent. Unfortunately, VanVleet is starting to wear down, as evidenced by a rough shooting night during a loss against DeMar DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls.

VanVleet was just 7-22 from the field and 3-12 from 3-point range. While his pesky on-ball defense has become a hallmark of his style of play, No. 23 looks much less dynamic on that end. VanVleet, who sat out in a win against Philadelphia, said that his health is not where he would like it to be.

VanVleet admitted in his postgame media availability that he is not 100% from a physical point of view, adding that “some days feel better than others.” With the postseason just a few ticks away, Toronto must be very judicious in how they use VanVleet from here on out.

Should the Toronto Raptors be worried about Fred VanVleet?

Toronto is just one game away from leapfrogging over the Cavaliers for the No. 6 seed in the conference. Resting your best player and starting point guard is not something that a team fighting for their postseason life typically does. Resting him against division rivals is equally concerning.

If VanVleet is out, the cupboard is bare concerning fill-in options. Scottie Barnes running point is a nice treat, but can he sustain a high level of performance in the postseason? Malachi Flynn has his injury issues. Dalano Banton is out of the rotation at the moment, and we haven’t seen enough from 10-day signing Armoni Brooks.

VanVleet has been fairly lethal when he’s on the floor, but Toronto shouldn’t be committing to playing him close to 40 minutes per night when he’s at 70% of his normal strength. Making sure he gets healthy for the playoffs should be the top priority, even if it comes at the expense of some regular season games.

This is not something that Toronto should take lightly, especially with a playoff push coming up. Once Toronto officially clinches a spot in the postseason, resting VanVleet until he is absolutely needed might not be the worst idea in the world given how dependent they are on his skills.

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