Fred VanVleet has made a name for himself as one of the league’s best backups with the Toronto Raptors. What are the best and worst-case scenarios for him this year?
If you bought into Fred VanVleet’s mantra of betting on yourself, and specifically on VanVleet, you’ve made a lot of hypothetical money. Since joining the Toronto Raptors as an undrafted free agent in the summer of 2016, VanVleet has fought his way from an end of the bench guy to the first guy the coach looks to off the bench.
His appearances in his rookie season were sporadic, and largely confined to garbage time minutes, but VanVleet showed that he could be an outside threat and a decent playmaker – so the Raptors decided to keep him around. 37 appearances weren’t a lot, but they were enough to prove that he could be a keeper.
Oh, how he was. In his second season in the NBA, VanVleet was a lead figure in the Toronto Raptors vaunted “Bench Mob”. The unit, which consisted of VanVleet, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles, Pascal Siakam, and Jakob Poeltl ran all their opponents off the court in the regular season, before struggling to replicate their success in limited minutes in the playoffs.
Unfortunately for VanVleet, and the Raptors, his postseason was derailed by a shoulder injury that held him to only six games where he never looked like himself. Still, his incredible regular-season saw him as one of three finalists for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award – and despite not winning the award, VanVleet was rewarded for his performances by the Raptors.
The Raptors signed VanVleet to a two-year, $18million contract in the summer of 2018, hoping that he could go on to improve in a bigger role for the team next season. Of course, he did.
The 2018/19 season was the best in Toronto Raptors history, as well as in the three-year career of VanVleet. He took on a larger role for the Raptors, starting in 28 regular-season games and stepping up in the final two series of the playoffs after a troubling start. He didn’t receive a Finals MVP vote for nothing, even making life hell for Steph Curry as the Raptors went on to win their first-ever NBA championship.
Winning an NBA championship is the best-case scenario for every player and every team, but it isn’t always a realistic scenario. There are things to be taken into account on a macro level and a micro level, but for Fred VanVleet, what are his best and worst-case scenarios this season?