Fred VanVleet was Raptors' leader on and off the court

With Kyle Lowry in Miami, Fred VanVleet was tasked with taking on a heavier leadership role on-and-off the court and at various points this past season, the All-Star guard showed he was up to the challenge. Listen to the full 'Raptors Awards' episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch on our Yahoo Sports Canada YouTube.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: Next award, Teammate of the Year. Aaron, go ahead.

AARON ROSE: Well, I would call it Raptors Assistant Coach Fred VanVleet.


AARON ROSE: And he-- we know what he did on the court. And he was incredible in the first half of the season, an All-Star player, and certainly worthy of that. In the second half, he tailed off a little bit with nicks and bruises.

But this was a guy who took responsibility every single night he went out the court. You know, he owned his injuries. Every time people raised questions, could-- is this the right move? Is this the right move? Why are you playing poorly? Whatever the situation was, he said, you know, I have to be better. If I'm out there, the responsibility is on me.

He never threw anyone else under the bus. You know, I think at times, where Malachi Flynn-- people were asking questions, what's up with Malachi Flynn? He answered those questions. He put his confidence in Malachi Flynn night after night, whatever it was.

And he's an assistant coach on the court. We saw it-- actually, he's an assistant coach both when he's on the court and when he's not playing--

AMIT MANN: Oh, yeah.

AARON ROSE: --for whatever--

AMIT MANN: Oh, yeah.

AARON ROSE: --the issue is. He's out there, he's mentoring guys, so--


AARON ROSE: You know, when we're talking about leadership on this team, we saw at times last year he sort of, I think behind the scenes, probably more so than a lot of people realized, he was taking over that leadership--


AARON ROSE: --from Kyle Lowry. And this year without Kyle, he fully stepped into that position. He spoke to the media every single opportunity. We needed a guy for great quotes. He was always there.

And to me, he's like the consummate professional, a great leader, and I think the face-- maybe not the face of the franchise because he's not at that number one sort of player. But he's the leader of this organization, and somebody they can put out there every single night. And he'll represent the organization the right way.

AMIT MANN: I remember earlier on in the season, I think someone asked him about what's the biggest transition into being this leader? And he said that it's not necessarily on the court, it's more off the court, and being the person that has to watch all the film to make sure guys are in the right spots on defense and offense, and being like, that-- the brain, essentially, just like Kyle Lowry was when he was on the court.

It's a unique quality. And you have to take on so much more responsibility. But then I think about it like this, too, is that if you are this person who's doing so much more work now all of a sudden, I would be like, you guys still aren't getting this?

Like, I'm the person who's watching all this film. And you guys are still not picking up these schemes that I keep on preaching to you, and Nick is preaching to you, and all these coaches are telling us how to do things. And you guys are not picking it up.

And early on in the season, man, like, you could see the frustration was on Pascal's face, Fred's face. Because they're like, the scheme's good. Like, it works. We just need to execute it better.

I don't know how many times we heard them say that, that it just wasn't being done properly as all these younger players were getting playing time. And they were essentially messing it up. They just weren't executing the game plan.

And that takes a lot of patience. And I think that's part of his maturation as a leader, is that he recognized that and he stuck to his guns. And I just love-- I love his swagger. And that's one thing that really was-- resonated with me with the Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan era, which was, like, the We the North era.

There was, like, a snarl, a confidence that was unwavering. And the Raptors didn't lose that. There were a few moments where you can kind of catch Fred talking to the team. And one that stuck out to me was he told Precious and-- I think it was the December 1st game against the Bucks.

It was late in the game, and Precious was in this phase where he was still making a lot of mistakes. And he looked at him-- he looked at the whole team. There was like, three seconds left. And all they had to do was just stand there and not move, and not do anything, and not foul, they were going to win the game.

And he looks at the whole team. He's like, don't fucking move. He was like, just hands up. That's all you got to do.

And he looks right at Precious, and he, like, taps him on the shoulder with a big smile. And he's like, remember, right? Don't move. And Precious was like, yeah, yeah, and then-- Precious is like, OK, cool. Cool, cool. So he gets it.

And then another one that comes to mind is after-- during the Lowry game. Because there was a lot of, like, hoopla around it, right? Kyle Lowry is back. It was a great celebration, yada, yada, yada, pregame.

But then Fred's talking to the team in the pregame huddle. And he says, let's go get a fucking win. Yes, they lost the game, unfortunately. But it's like, that kind of leadership-- like, everyone-- like, yeah, all this stuff's happening. But now let's refocus and let's get to it.

And another one, I actually don't know what game this was from. But they were on the bench. And he looked over at Pascal, and he says, they can't fuck with us. That was so cool, too.

Like, this is the snarl that I talk about that Fred brings. And Pascal is a bit quiet about it. He doesn't-- he rarely shows that side of him. OG, same kind of deal. So Fred has to be that outwardly confident guy.

And he's not always necessarily that. Like, he's a quiet, confident person. But he was more outward with it this season because he knew his team needed it. And that was cool.

AARON ROSE: No, and I think he's a guy that you see around the league, undrafted players or second round picks look up to him. I think of Jose Alvarado--


AARON ROSE: --mentioned him, and he was like, that's a guy I look up to. And when you have a guy in your organization that has been through it--


AARON ROSE: --has grinded for everything, you-- there's no excuses. You can't come in, even as Scottie Barnes, a first round pick, and say, you know what? I don't have to listen to this guy, or-- you know, this is a guy who's made his money. He's the highest paid undrafted player ever. And you have to look at him and you have to respect him.

So when you have that in your organization, it's not like someone else who--


AARON ROSE: --might not work hard. This is a guy who's been through it and--


AARON ROSE: --knows what it takes. So you have to respect that. And I think that is why it's so important to have a guy like that on the roster.