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Making an (early) case for Toronto Raptors All-Stars

Photo: Toronto Star

On Wednesday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that voting for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game will begin Thursday, January 28th, allowing fans to vote for each conference’s starting lineup.

Naturally, Toronto fans have started to debate about who could represent the Raps in this year’s matchup, which is rumoured to take place in Atlanta in March. Here is our breakdown of the chances we see a Raptor on the 2021 All-Star team.

Possible

Fred VanVleet

In a Raptors season marred by inconsistency so far, the most consistent piece of the group has been guard Fred VanVleet. Averaging 18.9 PPG, 4.5 rebounds and 6.6 assists, VanVleet has been driving play for Toronto this season, especially on nights where fellow stars Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry are struggling or sitting out with injuries. Along with his solid shooting numbers – 39.8% FG and 35.6% from three – Fred is a strong on ball-defender, consistently locking down opponents on the perimeter and in the post, despite being one of the smallest players on the court. He’s had several standout defensive plays so far this season, including this stop to ice Sunday’s win against the Pacers:

While Freddy has been solid for Toronto 17 games into the season, he faces heavy competition for a spot among the guards on the East’s All-Star team. Bradley Beal leads the league in points-per-game with 35.4 and should be a lock as a starter. Considering the impressive offensive output of Zach LaVine (27 PPG), Trae Young (26.2 PPG) and Collin Sexton (25.2 PPG), as well as the arrival of superstar and fan-favourite James Harden to the East as the newest member of the Brooklyn Nets, VanVleet’s chances of being voted onto the team are slim.

Maybe Drake can start a social media campaign to get his twin into the All-Star Game?

Long-Shot

Pascal Siakam

Last year, forward Pascal Siakam’s incredible regular season was rewarded with a starting spot in the 2020 All-Star team. But since his disappointing and uncharacteristic performances in the bubble in Orlando, we’ve yet to see the 26-year-old return to the best version of himself.

Second in scoring on the team behind VanVleet with 18.1 points-per-game, what Siakam’s game lacks most this year is consistency. The Cameroonian is at his best when he is aggressive in his movement towards the basket, even if teams are figuring out how to defend him more successfully. His shooting from beyond the arc has been poor so far this season at a 25.4% clip, down from a respectable 33.1% from last season.

Siakam still has time to raise his game to the level we know he can play at before voting is wrapped up by mid-February. But considering his average play so far this year, and the competition ahead in the forward core of the Eastern Conference – including Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo – I don’t see Siakam making this year’s All-Star squad.

Kyle Lowry

A six-time All-Star, Lowry is no stranger to being celebrated as one of the league’s best at the point guard position. Due to his popularity – both in Toronto and around the league – Kyle is always bound to attract votes to appear at All-Star weekend and put on a show.

Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely we see Lowry at this year’s All-Star festivities, as the 34-year-old has had a relatively quiet start to the season. Dealing with some lingering injuries and a bout with a toe infection, he just hasn’t been able to gain momentum and lead the team like the Raptors’ fanbase has gotten used to over the years. Averaging 18 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.4 assists, Lowry’s stats are still strong, but it’s his reliability in certain games that has come into question. On Monday, in his return after missing two games due to the toe infection, he shot just 2-11 and could not be counted on as a scorer down the stretch. These games are few and far between, but they’ve told the story of Lowry’s season so far.

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