The Toronto Raptors were raked over the coals in the offseason after they were unable to sign Fred VanVleet to a long-term contract and allowed the franchise icon to depart in free agency. VanVleet opted for an insane three-year max contract to join the Houston Rockets.
The Raptors were everyone’s easy pick when it came time to select an offseason loser, as they were unimpressed by the loss of VanVleet and the signing of Dennis Schroder. After Opening Night, there’s a chance some hearts and minds may have started to shift.
VanVleet finished with 14 points and five assists, with almost all of his scoring production coming during a four-minute stretch in the third quarter. VanVleet made just five of his 13 shots overall, and the Rockets were blown out by a young Orlando Magic team 116-86. Suboptimal would be a good way to describe this.
As Raptors fans can attest to, VanVleet at his best is an All-Star-level talent that can be a two-way leader. VanVleet at his worst, however, will make you want to trip your hair out. His first game in Rockets red leaned more to the negative side of the spectrum.
Former Toronto Raptors PG Fred VanVleet struggles in Rockets debut.
Udoka’s greatest challenge will be figuring out a way to justify the VanVleet contract while also getting young stars like Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, and Amen Thompson the shots they need. This could be a work in progress, as VanVleet was famous for holding the ball in Toronto.
As good as VanVleet is and was, there were reasons beyond financial ones that led to his departure. Head coach Darko Rajakovic wanted to play with more pace, which can often be antithetical to VanVleet’s style of play. The worst of VanVleet was on display in crunch time.
Meanwhile, Schroder became the first player in Raptors history since Kawhi Leonard to top 20 points in their first game with the team. Toronto pulled out a 97-94 win over a Timberwolves team with multiple possible All-Stars and got the Rajakovic era started off with a bang.
As with any Opening Night take, one must mention the fact that it is just one game. VanVleet will be fine, and the Rockets won’t be a dumpster-diving team this year. Still, VanVleet missed an opportunity to get the ball rolling in a positive direction with a tough Houston debut.