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Toronto Raptors: Fred VanVleet’s time will come

The Toronto Raptors had gone seven consecutive years with an All-Star selection. That streak came to an end Tuesday night after the reserves were announced for the 2021 NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Head coaches around the league are tasked with the tough decision of who to pick as the reserves for the All-Star game. Nick Nurse submitted his votes and said he was “very disappointed” that Fred VanVleet was left off the East All-Star reserves list.  

In each of the past five All-Star games, two Raptors had been selected to play in the event. Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry have both had the honour of being named as starters in past years, but neither had a strong enough case this time around.

After starting the season 2-8, the Raptors have turned it around and climbed back to .500 with a record of 16-16 sitting at fifth in the Eastern Conference. VanVleet is the only player on the Raptors that hasn’t missed a game this year and has played the second most total minutes in the NBA. He was certainly deserving of an All-Star selection.

On the defensive end, VanVleet has been making his case for an All-Defence team selection averaging 1.7 steals, a career-high 4.5 rebounds per game and his 1.2 percent block rate is in the 92nd percentile among his position group (per Cleaning the Glass).

Although defence isn’t always top of mind when you think about All-Star players (despite Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers being selected on the strength of their defence), VanVleet is also having a career year offensively as well.

He is averaging career-highs in points (19.8) and assists (6.7) while attempting more three’s than he ever has before (8.6 per game). He has cut his turnover rate to the lowest of his career (10.2 percent) while posting a career-best usage rate (23.7 percent). Perhaps most impressive is that he is third in FiveThirtyEight’s catch-all RAPTOR statistic.

It’s hard to think that anyone, let alone the coaches, could forget VanVleet’s record-breaking 54 point performance against the Orlando Magic earlier this season.

Every year there are deserving players that get snubbed and there’s always an argument for the roster to be expanded from 12 to 15 spots.

What’s interesting is that all of the top eight teams in the Eastern Conference will be represented in the All-Star Game except for the Raptors and Indiana Pacers. Big man Domantas Sabonis of the Pacers is another player whose name was left off the list and is having an outstanding season leading Indiana to the fourth-best record in the East.

VanVleet has played the role of the underdog many times in his career, when he was asked about not being named an All-Star this season, VanVleet said “It’s something I want to be a part of someday.”     

At 26-years-old, this is just VanVleet’s fourth season and it certainly won’t be the last time he will be in the running for an All-Star selection.

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