Freddy All-Star and the Toronto Raptors
By: Devin Zanskas
The play-by-play commentator for Toronto, Matt Devlin, coined the name “Freddy Allstar”, referring to Raptor guard Fred VanVleet. Regardless of the excessive campaigning, most fans would probably say VanVleet’s a deserving Allstar candidate, now that he’s the leading scorer for the Raptors, who are somehow a top-eight seed. As of now, the Raptors are four spots ahead of where they were at the end of last season, despite losing Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat over the offseason. Of course, the past year was unlike anything the players had ever gone through before, especially for the Raptors, whose homecourt was relocated to Tampa, Florida. Their return home was definitely a huge boost to the team’s morale, but the most significant change for the Raptors this season is VanVleet. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Conner compared VanVleet’s role on offense to that of James Harden, given the weight that’s been on his shoulders, and losing their lead guard from last year. It seems to be the Raptors’ aim is to bet on their organization’s ability to develop their young talent in areas that have been proven possible to improve, like shooting. However, it’ll take time for the Raptors’ shooting to catch up to their defense.
Only two years have passed since the Toronto Raptors were the reigning NBA champions, but there’s a night-and-day difference between the look of their roster now and when they hoisted the trophy. This was mostly out of the Raptors’ control, because Kawhi Leonard became one of, if not the only Finals MVP to switch squads before the next season. Losing Kawhi eased the transition of Danny Green leaving for the next title winners in the Los Angeles Lakers. Thankfully, that 2019 team was particularly deep, and they were able to hang onto Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka. In 2020, Siakam earned 2nd team All-NBA honors, making fans wonder if he could fit into the Giannis prototype, and become a facsimile to their former Finals MVP. Although Siakam has averaged over 21 points per game since being All-NBA, he couldn’t even lead the Raptors to the play-in tournament. Also, in addition to losing their franchise GOAT in Lowry this past offseason, the Raptors lost Marc Gasol and Sege Ibaka the season before too. Even though VanVleet has his work cut out for him, Toronto believes VanVleet can fill the shoes of Raptors past.