ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) –It’s hard to believe, but Fred VanVleet is entering his sixth season in the NBA with the Toronto Raptors. more will be expected from him than ever before.
VanVleet has always been a vocal leader for the Raptors, but he has shared that leadership role with veteran point guard Kyle Lowry. Lowry is now with the Miami Heat, so VanVleet will be looked to more than ever. On the court VanVleet’s role will change a bit without Lowry.
“Me and Kyle we split the ball-handling duties pretty much 50-50 the last two years, VanVleet told reports Monday at the Raptors Media Day. “I still always deferred to him just in the general sense of the ball-handling responsibilities, but we just had a great chemistry where it was like a one-two punch at the guard spot. So, I would say it’s going to be a different look on the court for sure.”
Last season VanVleet hit some personal highs. He averaged 19.6 points per game, and he had that incredible 54-point game against the Magic, a Raptors’ franchise record. So, what are his personal goals this season?
“Just to keep doing more. I think I took a huge jump last year in a lot of different areas. I took a lot more one-on-one matchups at the defensive guard spot. I scored more, assisted more, made more plays.” “All of those things I try to get better every year.” “I haven’t met a perfect basketball player yet, but that’s my goal. I’m chasing, I’m chasing that down.”
The Raptors’ record was only 27-45 last season, the 12th best in the East. They missed the playoffs. Losing is not the norm for VanVleet.
“For myself it’s based on being a winner, like my personality, that’s who I am. That’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve never lost ever in my life, so that was something to deal with mentally.”
The Raptors will be a much younger team this season, more reliant on their two most recent first-round draft picks Malachi Flynn and Scottie Barnes. Because of that, many NBA experts see the Raptors struggling this season. VanVleet still expects to chase a championship.
“The goal is to win the championship every year, and I’m certainly not going to lower my standards. I don’t care who’s on the team, and that’s what we’re going to push for. Now, will you have to have more patience? Yes. Will you have to manage your expectations? Probably, but at the same time the goal is going to be to win.”
“Hopefully every team that comes in here thinks we suck, and they don’t play hard, and we win, win a bunch of games, and we get into the playoffs and anything can happen when we get into the playoffs as we’ve seen.”
The Raptors regular season opener will be October 20th against the Wizards.