The Toronto Raptors have been struggling to take the next step this year, as they have not had a winning streak or losing streak longer than two games. This mediocrity had been perpetuated by 2021 All-Star Fred VanVleet being unable to replicate his standout performances.
VanVleet hasn’t made more than 40% of his shots in a single game since a November 11 loss against the Thunder. Since that game, VanVleet has been shooting just 29% from the field while going two straight weeks without scoring more than 13 points in a single game. He went just 3-14 in a loss to the Celtics.
Nurse was very quick to defend VanVleet, as he said that he was getting some good looks for most of the night, even though he was not cashing those looks in. Luckily for Raptors fans as a whole and VanVleet specifically, shot doctor Nurse seems to have diagnosed what is ailing VanVleet.
Nurse said that VanVleet, who normally has an “off the charts” release on his jumper, has been a bit “off-kilter” in the last few weeks due to a hitch in his mechanics. The team is working with VanVleet to fix it, as he’s been a huge anchor on the team’s offense lately.
Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet must improve his offense.
Last year, VanVleet averaged over 20 points per game while ranking near the top of the league in 3-pointers made per game. Since the 12th of November, he’s not even making two triples per game despite averaging eight attempts per contest.
The Raptors have likely made their peace with the fact that he’s never going to be an amazing finisher at the rim. However, if he isn’t hitting 3-pointers for a team that doesn’t like to play fast in their half-court sets and lacks shooting as a team, that’s a problem.
To VanVleet’s credit, he hasn’t made excuses for his slump or turned his poor play into a big pity party. Fred has acknowledged that he has been playing poorly before, and he seems willing to do whatever is necessary to get back to the All-Star level we know he can perform at.
VanVleet has had struggles like this before, and he’s usually done a solid job of breaking out of funks in relatively short order. Still, every night where the team’s vocal leader goes 3-14 from the field is going to feel like a gut punch in the eyes of a fanbase dying for some consistency.