The Toronto Raptors have one of the best backup guards in the entire league, if not the best.
Fred VanVleet, who spent four years with the Wichita State Shockers, went undrafted in 2016, signing with the Raptors after impressing the front office brass during his workouts.
The Rockford, Illinois native was brought in as roster security at the point guard position, with hopes to develop into a solid rotational player for the Raptors down the road.
After Cory Joseph was dealt to Indiana last offseason, head coach Dwane Casey was given no choice but to rely on his two young guards—VanVleet along with Delon Wright—to carry the backup load this season.
Being expected to produce in limited time is a tough task for young, inexperienced players, especially for a contending team.
However, the second-year guard has done more than just give All-Star starter Kyle Lowry rest—he’s made a name for himself with big performances and game-deciding plays.
The 24-year-old guard has a skillset that’s tailor-made for the Raptors’ current system: he’s second on the team in three-point percentage with a minimum of 100 attempts and he defends either guard position despite his size (6-feet), playing well off-the-ball.
He’s pretty much taken Cory Joseph’s role—who has been the team’s back-up in the previous two seasons—and enhanced it.
VanVleet’s advanced statistics and on/off court numbers also illustrate how impactful he’s been for the Raptors. In fact, he’s one of the most impactful players in the NBA.
The Raptors have a net rating of 14.7 when he’s on the floor, a significant increase from 4.5 when he’s on the bench.
That number also ties him with Stephen Curry for 1st for on/off-the-court net rating in the league (minimum of 15 minutes per game).
VanVleet only plays 19.8 minutes per game on average, showing that in limited time, he can put his imprint on a game and affect the outcome.
The Raptors are also approximately five points better as a team with Fred VanVleet, 15th overall in the league in plus/minus rankings at 5.6, and ninth among all guards in the NBA.
That ranking puts him directly behind the likes of Draymond Green, Rudy Gobert, and Kevin Durant. His teammate, DeMar DeRozan, is ninth, and Curry ranks first.
The 24-year-old has all the time in the world to develop into a starting calibre point guard, given he has all the necessary tools and the work ethic to be successful.
From going undrafted and sitting out most of last season as the fourth guard in the rotation, VanVleet has transformed himself into one of the league’s best reserves.
In a contract year, he has done enough to cement his name as one of the top restricted free agents this upcoming summer.
He will have plenty of suitors, and with the Raptors’ current cap space situation, there will need to be some financial arrangements and trades to keep him in Toronto.