Fred VanVleet quote proves Raptors are equipped to win now

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) /

Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors won 48 games last season despite two very conflicting philosophies taking root simultaneously. While Toronto was competing to host a home playoff series, the development of young players like point-forward Scottie Barnes and sharpshooter Gary Trent Jr. was also prioritized.

48 wins were a pleasant surprise last year, given how Toronto didn’t exactly come into the year as world-beaters. This year, 48 victories would not constitute a very successful year. Starting off the year well would be critical to Toronto’s goal of making noise in the postseason.

The Raptors took a step in the right direction on opening night, defeating Donovan Mitchell and a Cleveland Cavaliers team that came into the season with oodles of hype. VanVleet is acting less like a math teacher trying to keep everything organized and more like a co-worker helping his equals achieve their goals.

“It feels good to not be teaching on the fly,” VanVleet said, via Michael Grange of Sportsnet, after scoring 15 points in the win. “It was definitely more normal…having been in those situations last year, I think there’s some carryover there. Definitely can be better and will need to be better going forward, but we’ll take it.”

Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors are eyeing playoff success.

All five Raptors starters scored over 15 points per game. The Raptors were +20 when Barnes was on the floor, O.G. Anunoby hit several huge baskets in the fourth quarter to help the Raptors fight back, and Trent was once again excellent from 3-point range.

Toronto placed a massive bet on their continuity, choosing to bring back both Thad Young and Chris Boucher on multi-year deals. The Cavaliers are a talented team, but it is clear that they have kinks that need to be worked out. Toronto, meanwhile, is 100% comfortable in its own skin.

VanVleet is a master leader and helped immeasurably with development, but he likely doesn’t want to babysit for the rest of his career. With a huge contract on the horizon, VanVleet wants to produce in meaningful games. This year’s team has the tools needed to be a viable top-four seed.

While beating Cleveland is an excellent way to start the season, the Raptors only play one game in their next 10 against teams that did not make the playoffs last season. VanVleet and the rest of the roster need to be as sharp as possible if they want to start stacking wins.

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