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Are The Raptors Showcasing Fred VanVleet?

For the second game in a row, undrafted rookie Fred VanVleet was given the Toronto Raptors usual backup point guard Cory Joseph’s minutes in what is hard not to describe as an obvious showcasing of a talent someone might covet as we approach the NBA Trade deadline.

“Cory (Joseph) is still a big part of what we are going to do,” head coach Dwane Casey confirmed after the win in Brooklyn on Super Bowl Sunday.

“(VanVleet) has always played well in practice. He has done well with our D-League team the 905. He is a very talented point guard, so we wanted to make sure we gave him a look.”

Casey has played VanVleet for 20+ minutes four times this season, on the road in Orlando twice, on the road in Brooklyn twice and he has looked pretty good in those games averaging 9.8 points, 3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 39.4 percent from the field, 36.3 percent from three and going 9-9 from the free throw line in his last two games.

“I thought he played well,” Casey said. “I liked the way he quarterbacked. He had 4 assists, knocked down his free throws and I thought he did a good job defensively.”

With Toronto losing eight of their past ten games coming into Sunday and several players, including Joseph, looking a little worse for wear at this point in the season, it’s hard to blame Casey for giving the rookie a chance, but with the NBA trade deadline rapidly approaching, it’s equally hard to not be suspicious of the Raptors real motives here.

President Masai Ujiri put four point guards on his roster to start the 2016-17 season and now that last year’s rookie Delon Wright has three D-League games under his belt with the 905, the obvious question becomes, how does he justify keeping all four? Especially when the Raptors are so obviously thin and vulnerable at the big man spots in the rotation.

Wright has averaged 11.3 points, 1.7 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal and 1.7 blocks in 26.4 minutes with the 905, so his rehab assignment is going to start looking redundant real soon. If Wright is ready to come back up to the big club, Casey knows what he’s getting as Wright was starting to look NBA-ready at the end of last season.

What Ujiri is going to do about his point guard situation is unknown, but the best reason for playing VanVleet recently was to give him the information needed to make a decision. It’s hard to see all three of VanVleet, Wright and Joseph still on this roster after the trade deadline.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson