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Raptors Republic Chat: Fred VanVleet

Fred VanVleet, NBA Closer and decided NOT rat man.

Louis Zatzman
Last chat we discussed the end of the Raptors-Warriors debacle. The season has perked up a lot since then, and a huge part of that (huge?) has been Fred VanVleet. He’s become a closing staple for the team, which recently worked well against the Bucks in their overtime win. So the chat today is to suss out what’s going on. Fred VanVleet: NBA closer. Yea or nay?

Katie Heindl
yes, fred can do anything.

Josh Howe
I’ll also say yes, but it’s a yes with a shrug. Imagine me literally with this as my face: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Anthony Doyle
The lineup the Raptors have been using the most to close, isn’t really working. Lowry, Fred, DeMar, OG, and Serge have a -5.0 net rating in fourth quarters. But I’m not sure that’s Fred’s fault. If you substitute OG for JV, it’s a +12.9 net rating in almost the same sample size. I think Serge at center gets exploited more often than Fred is a problem.

Katie
while I am pro fred I am against the idea that we need a locked-in closing rotation.
because sometimes fred can’t do that
like against these really lengthy, athletic guys that delon might be better suited for

Anthony
My big issue with the way the Raptors close games is that it seems to be a set finishing lineup. The roster is too deep and talented for that. Even if you assume that the foursome of DeMar, Kyle, OG and Serge will be closing games, the fifth spot can be filled by committee depending on matchup, and I think that probably would produce better results.
Sometimes Fred might be the best option. Sometimes it might be Delon, or Jak, or CJ.

Louis
So it seems like everyone is pro-Fred. Gross, agreement.

Katie
I know it’s counterintuitive to this exercise but i’m really into the fact that we all think the same thing

Louis
Maybe Fred is best as part of a closing committee? Fair. It seems like Casey doesn’t want that, though. If it were to be a committee, Fred isn’t the best shooter (Miles) or nominally the best defender (Delon, although I think Fred is actually the 2nd best defender on the team behind OG and one of the tops in the league), so he might get squeezed out if it were a committee. Casey seems to have settled on him just being the 5th best player on the team?

Josh
I agree with the notion that the closing lineup needs to be chosen by matchup. Casey seems to stick with VanVleet most of the time because he is a middling option—he is a better defender (17th amongst PGs in DRPM) than Miles, and he is a better shooter than Wright. Thus he gives the team legitimate spacing and decent defense. Of course, he can’t shoot like Miles, and he can’t defend like Wright.

Anthony
I really felt like during the Bucks game, it would’ve been nice to have Delon and Jak on the floor when they were doubling DeMar. Because the Delon/Jak pick and roll can establish enough of a threat that it can open up enough space for DeMar to work again.

Louis
Getting into the Xs and Os, Anthony, is useful, because we need to define what the 5th starter is actually doing on the floor during a tight game
As in, should Freddy actually be initiating the offence while Lowry chills in the corner? As pro-Fred as I am, that seems insane

Anthony
Going to what Josh said I think is useful here then. If Fred is on the floor to be used as a shooter and defender, that makes sense. But if he’s the guy running the offense, instead of DeMar, Kyle or Delon, I don’t buy it at all.

Katie
what I really want for fred is for him to be the guy casey gets creative with, like when we need the wiley freak who is going to fly all over the place, get steals, falls down, throws himself into whatever needs doing.

Louis
which Fred will do ALWAYS

Katie
exactly
beautiful fred
all heart

Louis
all haircuts
does his hair grow faster than the normal person, so that he can keep freshening it up?
This might be the wrong time for this aside

Katie
yes, absolutely

Louis
To me the 5th starter during clutch minutes on offence really only needs to be able to hit open 3s and make plays in space when DeMar or Kyle draws doubles. Is Fred the best option for that?

Anthony
I’d like that guy to be CJ, for his shooting ability, but he’s been a massive problem on the defensive end so far this season.

Josh
So here’s a thing: in crunch time (five-point differential, five minutes or less), Fred’s got an offensive rating of 86.8, a defensive rating of 122.0, and an overall net rating of -19.4. So that’s obviously not good. But he never (!) turns the ball over in crunch time, and he has just a 9 per cent usage rate. Still, he hasn’t been as good as I think he can be. I mean, when he does shoot, he has a 25 per cent true shooting percentage. He’s better than he’s been. But how good? Not sure.

Anthony
Fred is shooting 34.9% from three this year, which is decent, but that’s the equivalent of a 104.7 ORtg, which isn’t terribly higher than league average halfcourt offense.

Louis
I’m browsing through his Cleaning the Glass stats, and I agree on offence, his numbers aren’t great. He doesn’t shoot well at the rim but takes most of his shots there. But the team’s numbers skyrocket. They just take awesome shots when he plays. Like Josh says, he doesn’t turn it over, and the team gets good looks. What more do you want?

Josh
Wanna hear something surprising? In fourth quarters this season, Miles is only shooting 31.7 per cent from deep. So FVV has been just as good an option where shooting’s concerned.

Anthony
In the clutch, Josh, CJ has a 150% true shooting percentage. Which obviously indicates a ridiculously small sample size, but is still funny.

Josh
That’s fair. And we know he’s a better shooter. I was just shocked that his fourth quarter percentage was THAT low.

Louis
I like how we’re all taking about him as an abstract, Katie, but you’re talking about him as an actual person, whom you care for deeply

Katie
I just TRUST fred
don’t you think it’s funny that casey finally this season is like, showing trust in the younger guys and rookies, I guess because he has to, but it has led to some stellar combinations and really inventive wins

Josh
I do, Katie! I think it’s amazing Casey is still here. When you hear the words “culture reset” from management, that usually means the coach is the first to go.

Anthony
Not to derail this into a JV discussion, but I do find it interesting that this year JV is finally really good in fourth quarters and clutch situations, and he’s never seeing the court there because Casey seems to love Ibaka at center, which I personally do not.

Josh
But Ibaka loves Ibaka at center, Anthony, which is all that matters.

Louis
The Ibaka at center lineups haven’t been as great this year as advertised, but they have unlocked the inventiveness that Katie mentioned, stellar combinations and all

Katie
i don’t love either!

Louis
More agreement. We disgust me.
Where’s Cam to fix this mess?

Cam Dorrett, making a late and timely entrance
hes here!

Katie
jv and ibaka are almost wayyy over at the other end of the spectrum from what i’m talking about when i say the team is finally letting itself get creative

Louis
So would you guys just prefer for the starters to close games, then?

Anthony
When Ibaka is at center with no other bigs in the game, the Raptors are only grabbing 48.3% of all rebounds, and just 76.7% of defensive rebounds. Giving up 1 in 4 offensive rebounds in the clutch isn’t really where I want to be.

Louis
And as amazing as Fred is on defence, he doesn’t really help clean the glass. Delon helps there

Katie
he’s only so tall, louis!!

Louis
This is an important point, here. Does his height hinder him on the court? And is it part of why we love him so much?

Katie
his heart is tall, i think that’s why it’s so misleading

Cam
Yes to both. Unfortunately you can only be so short and still good at basketball…trust me I know

Josh
The Steph Curry Effect: He looks like a regular dude out there and allows us to project onto him. We are all Fred VanVleet.

Anthony
Fred is pure work ethic. It’s the entire reason he’s in the league, as an undrafted guy. That’s why you can’t help but love him.
But back to the point at hand, I’d really like to see either Jak or Jonas in the game late. I feel like having another center in there helps both with the boards and with the fact that Kyle and DeMar are going to, sometimes, give up penetration from opposing guards.

Louis
Wait, Anthony, you think Valanciunas is actually going to help fix some penetration?
That’s the one place Ibaka at center helps, especially recently. His blocks were momentous in that Bucks game. The one in the clutch on Giannis saved the game

Cam
I agree Louis, that block changed the entire momentum of the last few plays and is the only reason the Raptors made it to overtime. That, and DeRozan’s 52 I guess

Anthony
I think it depends on the matchup, Louis. I would’ve rather had Jak than Jonas in that game, because I feel like Jak can give you that same mobility without sacrificing the rebounding. But there are games where Jonas is the right guy.

Louis
Basically what I’m hearing here is that the Raps don’t have a single 5th player who can give them what they need in the clutch. That hurts.

Katie
nooooooo i think we have the opposite problem
i think we are in a fantastic, really novel position

Anthony’s famous last words due to internet troubles
I agree with Katie here. It’s not a ‘one guy’ situation. It’s the freedom to pick your guy to match up with what the opponent wants to do.

Katie
we have like, this whole beautiful spectrum of potential dudes to throw at many close-out situations
you need height, wingspan, athleticism? toss delon in
YOU NEED GUTS AND GLORY AND A FIERY HEART?
fred

Josh
I do wonder how these guys, not just Fred, will fare come playoff time when things really hunker down. But Katie’s right, the situation is good: We can make a bunch of adjustments that other teams just can’t make.

Louis
Blake said earlier in his mailbag that in the playoffs, Fred is on the cusp of minutes. Is that good? Do you agree? Should this continue in the playoffs?
Right now they’d be playing Miami in the first round

Katie
yeah let’s keep messing around! it’s working, why not
where the raptors run into trouble is getting hung up on one rotation and not having an answer for late changes when the other team finally figures it out
and i say “finally” generously here, because we haven’t really been the most creative in the last few years come playoff time

Louis
Fred’s continued success should unlock more ability for Casey to be creative, I agree

Cam
My concern lies in whether or not Fred constitutes “Creative”

Katie
should, but i will believe it when i see it
i also fear that the current iteration of having this nice problem of many guys to draw from isn’t going to appear sustainable to the organization
i have a creeping suspicion that they might parcel a bunch of our bench up for a trade

Josh
That would be sad. This is the most fun Raps squad in years—trading anyone would be difficult for the fans. Shockingly, Powell might be the one guy that fans would be okay with trading. I feel so bad for him …

Louis
Yeah, we haven’t discussed Norm at all, but he was supposed to be the 5th closer coming into this season, right?

Katie
yeah he was. But i think norm is just having a bad run right now, i don’t think it’s indicative of something worse or longer term

Cam
Call me crazy but I’m a fan of players improving with playing time. Right now we’re seeing Fred take advantage of that while Powell clearly isn’t.

Katie
last year and the playoffs prior it was like norm was all the raptors had for this improvisational, high-energy guy
and now there are.. at least 5 others?

Louis
It’s amazing. The lineup of all improvisational, crazy, high-energy players (Fred, Delon, OG, Pascal, Poeltl) was just STOMPING people to start the season

Cam
Does it matter that Fred doesn’t exactly drip playoff experience?

Louis
I think it does matter. And in the playoffs, when single weaknesses are exploited just over and over (like JV on the pick and roll), Fred can be a target. Especially with a team with big guards (ie, Goran Dragic). How would Fred deal with that?

Katie
bring on Goran, Zoran, any other Dragic

Louis
Fred is a Dragic punking machine!

Josh
Playing hard matters. But that’s the thing about the playoffs—everyone’s playing really, really hard. Is there another gear for these guys, including Fred? Or are we seeing their peak ability now?

Katie
yeah Josh, that’s the question that scares me

Louis
Yeah, Josh, Fred’s tryhardedness might hit the Spurs wall in the playoffs
But he’s skilled too! That’s the thing I hate in so many fans’ rants, is that they think he’s this tiny, unskilled goon (like Delly), but he has tight handles, vision, and is a good shooter!
I think Fred should be fine when everyone is trying as hard as he is, if not as perfect.

Katie
oh my god who compared fred to the rat man dellavedova?

Louis
Suspend this chat to go on a twitter hunt!

Josh
Rat man?!

Katie
he’s a man made of rats
that Fred-Delly comparison is truly offensive to me
here’s delly now

Josh
Damn. Rat’s got hops.

Louis
This is as good a time as any, I’d say, to call for some closing arguments of sorts. Let me re-phrase the question, knowing what we know.
We all seem to agree that Fred is a golden god and one deserving of closing minutes. Should Fred be consistently closing games in the playoffs or just part of a stable? And do you think Casey will play him in closing minutes of the playoffs?

Katie
as the most prized of our reliable stable of youth, fred should continue to get clutch minutes to make sure he’s really shored up for the playoffs and his general unflappability remains intact, but i think to stay fluid and creative casey has to put in who the situation calls for

Cam
Fred has earned a right to be there, but it will have to be matchup dependant come playoff time. How Casey handles him could define the Raptors success this postseason – sorry if that seems dramatic!

Josh
I think Casey should go with the flow. We have a useful stable of guys, so why not exploit that? It’s nice to have a closing lineup you know will do it for you, but with the Raptors, we have multiple options that can do that, and no single option that most assuredly will. We have one of the deepest rosters in the league, better make use of it. I do think Casey will try playing him closing minutes, at least to start. We know that Casey has a short leash, though. So if Fred finds himself performing less than adequately, the spot may be up for grabs.

Katie
sorry, i am still shook off that dellavedova comparison

Louis
Yeah, that’s what I thought – we all agree, and none of us really budged during the chat.
At least we got Grade A rat jokes out of this

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