Did Fred VanVleet meet expectations this season?
Imman Adan and Adon Moss review the ups and downs of Fred VanVleet's season. Listen to the full podcast assigning grades for all the starters on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed.
IMMAN ADAN: So let's start with the point guard. And we're going up as we give the grades, so we're going to start off with Fred VanVleet.
And he's had kind of an up and down year, taking a step back, maybe, from the year before. If you had to put on your teacher hat, what grade would you give Fred VanVleet for the 2022-2023 season?
ADON MOSS: I just want to preface this all by saying that, like, it's kind of hard to evaluate these guys because the talk all year has kind of been this, they're individually great, but the parts don't equal the sum, blah, blah, blah. So I found it difficult to kind of parse them out.
Do I put them in a vacuum? Do I-- do I think about how they make others better, et cetera, et cetera? So I wanted to get that out of the way, and also say that my grades might be a little bit hard. But that's because deep down, as a teacher with all this love and affection for this team, I had such great expectations, you know?
IMMAN ADAN: You want everyone to achieve their highest. No, that's very fair.
ADON MOSS: Exactly, and so it's a reflection of that. So--
IMMAN ADAN: Very fair.
ADON MOSS: --with that said, I gave Freddy a B. And I know that might be harsh--
IMMAN ADAN: Nicer than me.
ADON MOSS: Oh, it was?
IMMAN ADAN: Really was. Yeah, OK, so I'm clearly the hardass teacher here. OK, so you gave Fred VanVleet a B. Let's get into that. So why did he get that grade?
If I'm his parent coming in to you-- it's a parent-teacher interview. Why did my son get this grade?
ADON MOSS: Well, I have to say I think I kind of hedged my bets a little bit because Freddy is, like, a firebrand topic amongst Raptor fans. And there was a feeling-- we can dig into the numbers if you want.
But for me, there's just a feeling this year with Freddy that sometimes you get with other players across the league, where the more they score, the kind of less-- like, worse off your team is. And that was the feeling I got all year.
And that-- I want Freddy to be a point guard. And I think it's because we came from the legacy of Kyle Lowry, whose bum was, like, the Atlas that held up the Raptors' world, right? Like, there was just this resilience and this--
IMMAN ADAN: I thought it would.
ADON MOSS: Yeah, just a commanding presence. And Freddy lacked that. And he's-- he's more of a scorer first. And his scoring took a dip a little bit this year--
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah.
ADON MOSS: --and so did his efficiency. And I really was expecting him to be the playmaking, distributing general that we have-- now that he's kind of into his prime and become the secondary, I would say, leader of this team. And that wasn't the case, so I was kind of disappointed with that.
IMMAN ADAN: And I think that's very fair. I was disappointed with Fred VanVleet's season as a whole. I think there were some bright spots. And I think there were some down spots as well. And I think people were far too harsh on Fred VanVleet.
The fact of the matter is--
ADON MOSS: Yes.
IMMAN ADAN: --even getting to .500 is not something that the Raptors do without Fred VanVleet. I think they would probably be a 21-win team, if that, without a guy like Fred VanVleet commanding sort of the ship.
But I completely agree with you in that when he does score more-- we saw that, back-to-back 43-point games. Those happened to be losses-- granted, no Pascal Siakam. But I think I completely agree with what you're saying.
But the way I sort of looked at it, and maybe I was being too harsh here, I was like, OK, I think last year, Fred VanVleet had an A year. If I had to grade him in his All-Star season, I would give that an A.
And if I look at it this year, I'm like, he's gotten worse defensively, right? A large reason for why the Raptors defense really took a step back is, well, you have no rim protector for most of the year. And then your point of attack defenders are also really bad.
And I think that does fall on Fred VanVleet, who a year prior, again, would have been second on my ballot for All-NBA for All-Defensive Team. Like, he would have sort of been a second level guard. He could have very well made that team last year.
So he took a step back defensively and also took a step back offensively. That 3-point shot, I think he's at 34% on the year. That's not good. So you took two steps back. So I'm like, I'm going to push you back two grades.
You get two letter grades down. And so I demoted him to a C.
ADON MOSS: Wow.
IMMAN ADAN: I'm fine going a C-plus because I think he's so important to what the Raptors do. I know, I told you I was really harsh on Fred. Fred, I'm grading on a curve.
Like, I was looking at my grades, and I'm like, it's kind of nice to Scottie and kind of mean to Fred, where it's not very fair--
ADON MOSS: Inverse of Doug, yeah.
IMMAN ADAN: They both took major steps back this year. But I think Fred just matters so much to what this team did. They needed an All-Star guard to pair alongside Pascal Siakam.
I think if Fred VanVleet shot the ball well or Fred VanVleet did not take such a major step back defensively, especially at the start of the year-- because I do think those things rebounded as the year went on-- we'd be talking about this Raptors season completely different.
And I also think you have to sort of-- the reason why he doesn't get a D or an F the way that most Raptor fans would probably give him this year is because he was actually really important to what the Raptors did. And overall, he was good. Overall, he was the team's second best player at the end of the day, and that matters.
And so I can't give him anything lower than that. But I think C-plus is probably where I balance it off, just talking to you, I think. And also, I felt really guilty about my grade.
So I think I'm going to leave it off as a C-plus for Fred VanVleet. He was the one that was toughest on.
ADON MOSS: Yeah.
IMMAN ADAN: Spoiler alert, I gave one A. And I think that's an obvious one. And I was sort of flirting around with where I'd give Pascal Siakam-- that was sort of where I was going to be multiple. And I might change that up. But we're jumping a little bit ahead.
Do you have anything else to add to your Fred VanVleet portion of it?
ADON MOSS: I think you're spot on with, like, if we had divided this into two halves, the latter half would probably be closer to an A. Poeltl obviously-- and I don't want to get too much into Poeltl, but he obviously opened Freddy's game up. The pick and roll became probably their best go-to play throughout the year.
And I don't know if Freddy's assist percentage went up during that time, too. But a lot came through that. And--
IMMAN ADAN: It had to have.
ADON MOSS: Yeah, and it just looked more natural for him. And then also on the defensive end, it's true, and I think he got healthier as the year went on, too. Masai mentioned that in the presser, that when Freddy's healthy, he is an All-NBA player, and it's true. I was saying in the beginning of the year--
IMMAN ADAN: As you're saying this, as you're saying this, I'm like, C-plus feels harsh. The guy was broken.
ADON MOSS: I mean--
IMMAN ADAN: He was broken.
ADON MOSS: He was, and I would say his knees looked swampy. Like, they looked like he was really having trouble moving. And he became more limber as the season went on. So--
IMMAN ADAN: Yeah.
ADON MOSS: --you have to take it in an amalgam. And again, there's expectations on where we want Freddy to be this year. And I didn't think he met them. So I don't think you're-- I think it's a little harsh, but I don't think it's that far off.
IMMAN ADAN: Here-- yeah, so the way that I sort of framed it in my brain-- because I think a couple of things as you're sort of speaking. I'm like, yes, the assist percentage did go up. But also, like, the turnover percentage did not, which is such a huge thing that makes this Raptors team really go, was the fact that they're such a low turnover team.
And we saw it in the games where Fred VanVleet was not there. The Raptors were dead last in assist percentage. They're still not a very high assist percentage team overall. They don't move the ball that much.
But when Fred was out, it was just, like, you have no point guard. He matters so much to what this team does. He is so important and so integral.
But I can't look at Fred VanVleet from the year before and look at Fred VanVleet, at least at the start of this year, and say these are sort of comparable players, especially on the defensive end and with the shooting. Those are two of the biggest things that you need from Fred.
ADON MOSS: Yeah.
IMMAN ADAN: And those are two things that he just didn't have. And unfortunately, it was because his body wasn't there. And we saw it as the season went along, and he started to get back into the health, that those things rebounded.
So I'm-- the reason why I feel comfortable giving him the C-plus is because I don't expect this to be the player next year. And I think we're talking about a player who gets an A probably next year, more so than the player that we have this year. So I'm fine with this being sort of, like, the one down year.
But it does feel kind of harsh, it does. A B-minus? Well, B minus. Why not? It's the summertime. Everybody's happy.
ADON MOSS: I mean, if we average each other out, we're B-minus, so there you go.
IMMAN ADAN: That is very true. OK, so let's go to--