In the latest episode of “The Old Man & the Three” podcast hosted by former NBA marksman JJ Redick, Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet opened up about his offensive struggles this season, the difference in his role on the Raptors from this season to last, and how frustrating losing is.
VanVleet was candid about his subpar play thus far this season. When asked whether his recent mix of injuries has played a part in his "down" year, the All-Star guard reluctantly said yes, but assured Redick that it’s a multivariate situation.
“I think from a stylistic point, the way we were playing last year was just kind of free and easy and I think I was much more a focal point with just on-ball duties and having the ball the whole game and being able to kind of dictate where I want to go, and this year that's changed a little bit," VanVleet said.
"So I'm kind of just catching a rhythm. Some nights the ball finds you some and some nights it doesn't, and the nights where it doesn't, those are the nights that I'm struggling this year — where the out of rhythm games where I may get a couple catch and shoots, couple contested ones, couple ones off the dribble, not getting to the foul line and then I get three wide-open ones at the end of the night when we need them and if I make them we win, if I miss them we lose, I've had probably like four or five of those games."
The 28-year-old stated that he understands that there’s been a precipitous drop off in his play compared to last season — but that it is situational. VanVleet also spoke about having a wide range of duties on the Raptors and that putting things into context helps assuage any feelings of doubt that may arise.
“I think it's a big drop-off from where I was, as far as an All-Star-calibre point guard, to where I am now but I think it's pretty situational, too, in terms of where we are as a team and as an organization, trying to figure out what's the best way to maximize the most out of this team.
"And I got a lot of other responsibilities other than just scoring the ball. So I'm doing a lot, and the shooting has been up and it's been down way more than I would like it to be, so I'm giving myself a little runway. But at the same time, I'm just being realistic about where we are. And when I really feel like s***, I just go watch the film and say okay well, ‘that was 2-for-12 from three and eight of them were bombs and three of them were heavily contested by seven-footers, and I missed three-wide open ones,’ you know, in my 39th minute of the night. Like you got to be able to be fair with yourself, too, but come in and just put in the work, too.”
The Rockford, Illinois native has taken a step back from a career year which saw him earn his first All-Star nod. In 2022-23, he's averaging 18.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists, shooting 37.4 percent from field-goal range and a career-low 32.4 percent from beyond the arc.
The Raptors' season has not gone to plan, with the team sitting in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with a 16-22 record.
While VanVleet admits to having a lacklustre year, he remains steadfast in confidence, reminding Redick, as well as the people at home, that he’s “the same guy that can give you 30 on any given night or 39 on back-to-back games against the best. There’s [just] been way more bad games than I’m accustomed to having, for my standard.”
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