The Toronto Raptors have been fairly average this season. With that being said, that hasn’t stopped the team from up north from showing the NBA some impressive talent in their lineup.
You may be thinking that I would be talking about former NBA all-star Pascal Siakam or even emerging rookie star Scottie Barnes. Instead, I want to turn your attention to a 6-foot-1 undrafted point guard named Fred VanVleet.
VanVleet started in the Summer League with a handful of G-League assignments. Today, the five-year veteran has been so good that he’s in line to contend for the backup guard spot in the NBA all-star game on Feb. 20.
But hey, don’t take my word for it–just ask NBA legend Chauncey Billups, current head coach of the Portland Trail Blazers.
“[VanVleet’s] just so underappreciated to me by the league,” said Billups. “I think he’s maybe the most underrated player in the game. He can do it all.”
Yet, that still doesn’t tell the entire story of how well VanVleet has played this year for a Raptors team looking for a play-in spot. After fan favorite Kyle Lowry left the Raptors with a star-studded list of accomplishments including helping the franchise earn its first ring and cementing his place as one of the greatest players in franchise history, VanVleet was expected to take on the huge hole that Lowry’s absence has left the team.
It certainly wasn’t easy, but the 27-year-old guard from Wichita State has not only filled this hole extremely well, but he’s also exceeded expectations. At nearly 40 minutes per game, VanVleet is averaging over 20 points per game for the first time in his career on great shooting splits. He’s doing this, while switching over from the shooting guard position, a place that VanVleet has grown accustomed to throughout the duration of his career, to command the team’s primary guard spot.
Take a look at VanVleet’s effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot field goal attempts this season. He ranks with one of the highest marks in the league at 69.9%. That’s higher than NBA all-star game starter Andrew Wiggins. He ranks third in made three-pointers this season with 165. His shooting from beyond the arc in 17 straight games has VanVleet tied for the third-longest streak in NBA history.
Even with VanVleet’s noticeable shooting slump, these are still signs of an NBA all-star. When the guard has to play close to 40 minutes a night–including a game where he played 54 minutes in a triple-overtime game on the road against the Miami Heat–and still grab solid numbers, that’s extraordinary.
Despite all of VanVleet’s great accomplishments this season, there’s still doubts as to whether he will grab his first career all-star appearance in recognition of his impressive play. Regardless of if the Toronto veteran gets his recognition, it’s time to recognize this undrafted talent.