Fred VanVleet is five-feet 10-inches tall. Six-feet even in shoes.
He has a six-foot one-incg wingspan, he is far from fast, he doesn’t jump out of the gym, and he went to Wichita State, where he had a solid but unremarkable four-year career.
You can understand, then, why he went undrafted and fell in the Raptors’ lap as an undrafted free agent in 2017, where he had to fight and compete against guys no one has ever heard of for a spot on the Raptors’ 15-man roster to avoid being sent down to the then-D-League permanently.
He started off pretty slow. Plenty of trips to the Raptors’ D-League team, the Raptors 905, and a lot of garbage minutes. He didn’t even score his first points until his fourth appearance in an NBA game.
So, you can understand why VanVleet dropping 58 points in a game this past week against the Orlando Magic, breaking the Raptors’ single-game scoring record, and the record for most points scored in a game by an undrafted player, is such a big deal. He was praised by many Raptors fans. Former Raptor star and owner of the Raptors’ single-game scoring record, DeMar DeRozan, gave him a shoutout on Twitter, but for the most part it has been an overlooked performance. Could that have to do with his height? Or maybe it’s because the team played the Orlando Magic, and he plays for the Toronto Raptors, who are only just now starting to turn things around with a 9-12 record, good for ninth in the east?
Regardless of the lack of media attention, the 26-year-old out of Rockford, Illinois is another success story in Toronto, a team that seems to find diamonds in the rough every year. Spicy P was drafted in 2016 at 27 overall and is now an all-star. Kyle Lowry bounced around the league as a backup after being drafted 24th overall in 2006, before landing in Toronto in 2012 and turning into one of the game’s most underrated and efficient point guards.
The Raptors do this all of the time. Their most recent success comes with shooting guard Terrence Davis, who made the all-rookie second team last year despite going undrafted in 2019. VanVleet is just the guy who seems to embody the “Raptor Way” the best.
FVV went from being undrafted to getting a four-year, $85 million extension this past season, which, to be honest, seems like a bargain, especially compared to a lot of other overpaid, overhyped guards that get max deals to go out and shoot 67% from the free throw line and have a negative win-share (I’m not talking about anyone specific).
But it comes with the territory of being undersized in a game where size and length is everything. If you’re six-foot, you are going to be looked at as a fun story, as someone who overcame all the odds to get where he’s at. You’ll never be considered a star player.
Maybe Fred VanVleet can change that.
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