Beyond the Match: Fred VanVleet, a leader for the Toronto Raptors’ new era

VanVleet is averaging 21.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 6.9 assists this season

Fred VanVleet competing in basketball. (Flickr/All-Pro Reels)

Fred VanVleet competing in basketball. (Flickr/All-Pro Reels)

The journey of Fred VanVleet, lead point guard for the Toronto Raptors, is one that many voices in the NBA marvel at. He went undrafted in the 2016 draft and decided to “bet on himself,” a saying he’s famously known for, and worked his way to helping the franchise win its first championship. Now he’s leading a young Raptors team to a new era. 

When the Raptors and long-time franchise point guard Kyle Lowry parted ways in the 2021 offseason, it was clear that VanVleet would take over and become one of the leaders for the young team alongside his partner, Pascal Siakam. 

The news of Siakam needing surgery to fix a torn labrum in his shoulder and having to miss the start of the season due to the five-month recovery time meant VanVleet had to carry a bigger load until his partner’s return.  

VanVleet started the first ten games of the season, averaging 18.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 7.1 assists. In that stretch, he led the team to six wins. 

So far this season, VanVleet has done something that makes fans and other members of the NBA marvel at his work ethic and success story. 

Since the beginning of VanVleet’s career as a Raptor, he’s always preached his famous saying, “bet on yourself.” It helped him snag a training camp contract in his rookie year, grow into a reliable bench guard for the team, then become a starting guard who eventually signed a four-year, $85 million contract which is reportedly the largest contract for an undrafted player. 

The team is well into the season, and throughout the games so far, VanVleet has shown why he deserved the spot as one of the leaders for the team. Whether it’s been his locker room presence, the mentorship he provides to the younger players, or hitting clutch shots and taking over the game when the team needs him to. 

This past January, he took his game to new heights and earned his first triple-double against the Utah Jazz, meaning he scored double digits in points, assists, and rebounds. His stat line for the game was 37 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds.

He averaged 23.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists during the month of January. He had a run that gained the attention of fans and members of the NBA and ultimately got him voted into his first all-star appearance.

VanVleet might have only played nine minutes in his first all-star game, but he made his presence known by scoring six points by way of three-pointers, a type of scoring he’s known for. He ended the night making 50 per cent of the shots he took and recorded six points, three assists, and two rebounds.

Since signing with the team in 2016, VanVleet has always had a steady growth that made fans marvel at what he could become. Six years later, fans are getting to live in the moment of his leadership and, of course, enjoying the talents he brings.

As this young Raptors team remains a play-in spot and could possibly find themselves in the playoffs, there is confidence VanVleet can lead the team and prepare the young players for their first playoff run. 

Knowing VanVleet’s ability to step up and make his presence known in games, it won’t be surprising to hear that many fans are excited to watch him in a possible playoff run as the lead point guard for a young and talented team.