Raptors Lost the game at the very last second; The Toronto Raptors are struggling with the workload of point guard Fred VanVleet, who has played an average of 41 minutes per game over the past three games and is now ranked fourth in the NBA league in minutes per game. The team had hoped to manage VanVleet’s workload differently this season to avoid burnout, but recent events have made this difficult. Despite shooting poorly in the past two games, VanVleet has been the Raptors’ best player and has had to carry the team in their efforts to turn around their season.
VanVleet has acknowledged that his performance this season has not lived up to his all-star campaign last year and that his shooting has been inconsistent. However, he has also said that he is not concerned about his statistics and is focused on helping the team win. In a recent appearance on JJ Redick’s podcast, VanVleet said, “I think it’s a big drop off from where I was, as far as an all-star caliber point guard, to where I am now. The shooting has been up, and it’s been down way more than I would like it to be [but] I’ve always been a guy that’s tried to pride myself on my defense and my competitiveness and to try to make winning plays.”
VanVleet has undoubtedly made some impressive plays in the past few games, including a sequence in Friday’s third quarter in which he banked in a three-pointer, stripped the ball from Knicks big man Mitchell Robinson under the rim, and drew a blocking foul. However, the workload has been taking a toll on him, as he was seen lying motionless on the court after the play, needing a moment to catch his breath. In the Raptors’ loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, VanVleet played 47 minutes and missed a game-tying three at the end of overtime, later admitting that he was “tired as s***.”
Raptors coach Nick Nurse said that he would like to cut VanVleet’s minutes by five or six per game but has been looking for someone to fill the gap. “It’s been difficult,” Nurse said. “We certainly would love to cut those down by five or six minutes a night. It was looking like we were heading in that direction. But, we need someone to fill those minutes where we can feel like the game is still within reach.”
The Raptors have been hit by several injuries this season, contributing to the heavy workload for VanVleet and other key players such as Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby. The team has also struggled to find a consistent rhythm, with some impressive wins mixed in with unexpected losses. Despite these challenges, the Raptors remain in the hunt for a playoff spot and will look to VanVleet and the rest of the team to step up in the coming weeks.