Is Fred VanVleet’s improved play here to stay after Raptors beat Rockets?

This season has not gone according to plan for the Toronto Raptors, but it was incredibly disappointing on a multitude of levels, but the poor play of All-Star guard Fred VanVleet was one of the most shocking developments. After a historic season last year, VanVleet has looked completely out of sync for weeks at a time.

His ineptitude crescendoed during a loss against the Atlanta Hawks in which he mustered just three points on 1-9 shooting from the field. At a time when many (myself included) started to run out of justifications for going into every game with a VanVleet-heavy plan of attack.

He’s done everything he can to make the doubters eat their words as the trade rumors swirl.

VanVleet came into Friday night’s matchup against one of the league’s worst teams in the moribund Houston Rockets averaging 26.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 7.9 assists per game in his past nine contests. What has really stood out of late is his efficiency, as he is making 47% of his shots and 41% of his 9.2 3-pointers per game.

After a horrendous start, VanVleet helped turn up the heat and get this offense started up once again. VanVleet finished with 32 points, five rebounds, and four assists as the Raptors pulled out a 117-111 win. Is the VanVleet from last year officially back in town?

Toronto Raptors PG Fred VanVleet has been hot lately.

This is not likely to change Toronto’s trade prospects at the deadline. VanVleet, who can become a free agent this offseason by declining a player option, might be considered too expensive for a Raptors team that could transition to a new era built around Scottie Barnes. OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. are being shopped for similar reasons.

At the same time, VanVleet optimists will point to this stretch as a time that is more indicative of what he brings to the table for Toronto. When he’s on, he’s one of the few shooters on this Raptors lineup. His ability to still make a handful of impactful defensive plays and strong distribution skills make a compelling case for retaining him.

This stretch will likely not change your opinion on VanVleet as a trade candidate. If he balls out, that will increase his trade value. If he struggles, that’s all the more reason to find a new home for him. At the very least, VanVleet playing like his old self is a rare sign of positivity in a season where very little has gone well for this team.