Grading the Toronto Raptors starting lineup amid solid start

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 07: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 07: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors have been punched in the mouth quite a few times this season, as names like Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes have all had some injury problems. Despite that, the Raptors continue to solider on and jockey for playoff position, largely due to their starting lineup.

The Raptors are 7-5 despite getting stuck with a brutal schedule to begin the season. Even though additions like Otto Porter Jr. on the bench are certainly welcome, this starting lineup is going to be what ends up determining how far this team ends up going in the postseason.

Remaining unchanged from last year when healthy, Toronto is starting the only collection of players from a year ago who all averaged more than 15 points per game. Their individual brilliance is the main reason Nick Nurse’s unique machinations continue to work.

The Raptors have plowed through one-eighth of their season already, meaning that it’s time to analyze this starting lineup and how they have performed so far. Which players will likely be in the All-Star debate, and which players need to improve quickly?

Grading the Toronto Raptors’ starting lineup after 12 games.

PG: Fred VanVleet

We’ve seen the best and worst of VanVleet over the last few games. Just a few games removed from scoring one point and going 0-11 from the field against the 76ers, VanVleet scored 30 points and helped Toronto take down a very competitive Bulls team.

VanVleet has averaged 30 points per game during his last three contests, singlehandedly leading the offense at times while Siakam has been infirmed. While that slow start was gnarly, Toronto should feel 100% confident in VanVleet’s ability to lead this team for the remainder of the season.

Grade: B+

Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet is back on track offensively.

SG: Gary Trent Jr.

While there is some fair criticism of Trent to go around, as he hasn’t been anything close to the guy who would pull off 30-point games regularly, his per game averages are respectable. Still, the Raptors haven’t been as dominant on either end when he’s been on the floor. 

Trent’s on-ball defense was never going to be amazing, as his value on that end lies in piling up deflections and turnovers, but it’s been lacking this year. The streakiness of Trent on both ends can be a problem, but the odds of him catching fire and getting back in a groove are high.

Grade: B-