Getting named to his first NBA All-Star Game, Fred VanVleet continues to show the Toronto Raptors why they were right to bet on him.
There was a time when it was rare to see a Toronto Raptors player participating in the NBA All-Star Game.
Getting recognition south of the border has always been the biggest hurdle for players playing for Canada’s only NBA team. This is why Fred VanVleet getting named to this year’s NBA All-Star Game is a significant one for the Raptors.
His story is unique in comparison to many of the other players who make it to the All-Star Game since they were highly touted players. Those who know VanVleet’s path are aware that he has been living the underdog story.
The 27-year-old went through both rounds of the 2016 NBA Draft without hearing his name called. At that moment he sent out the tweet that would become his oen personal slogan and describe his career up until this point.
The Raptors saw something in VanVleet signing him to a deal where he worked his way up the ladder from the Raptors 905 where he won a title, to Toronto’s bench mob and then he played a big part in bringing the team their first championship in 2019.
On a personal note, many will remember the night he scored 54 points against the Orlando Magic which set a new record for points in a single game by an undrafted player. Working alongside Kyle Lowry, VanVleet was being groomed as the team’s next starting point guard.
This season, VanVleet has shown that he learned a lot from his mentor putting the Raptors on his back when the team needed him to. The campaign to get him to the All-Star Game didn’t need much convincing if you ask those who watch VanVleet every night.
Becoming just the fourth undrafted player to make the all-star team shows just how tough the road is for those players but it also speaks to his perseverance. Really getting recognition and respect from his peers was crucial for him.
"“That’s what I play for,” VanVleet told reporters. “I never sought out to be a fan favourite, certainly respect and admire the passion and obviously the fans are a large part of what we do in this business, but I always sought out to be respected by my peers first and foremost and the coaches right after that.“That one would have stung a little bit (to be passed over by the coaches) considering the season that I’ve had if they didn’t pick me but… it definitely means a little bit more coming from them.”"
While this is an important moment for VanVleet, it’s a big deal for the Raptors and what they have been working towards. It’s their focus on development that has led to players like VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and eventually, Scottie Barnes being a part of a core that continues to show growth.
There was a real unknown with this Raptors team as they find themselves climbing up the Eastern Conference standings. Toronto sits 4.5 games back of the Chicago Bulls and with the way they are playing right now, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to move up.
What it comes to down to is whether their core can continue to maintain their level of play and the front office decides to make a trade for some frontcourt help at the trade deadline.
Even if this team doesn’t go on a deep playoff run, knowing they are heading in the right direction especially with VanVleet embodying everything Lowry showed during his tenure.
Is VanVleet’s All-Star appearance one of the more memorable ones in team history? Do you think he can help the Raptors get back to the top of the standings? Let us know in the comments below.