Fred VanVleet's ideal role in Raptors offence next season

Amit Mann is joined by Esfandiar Baraheni to discuss how Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam transitioning to heavier ball-handling roles will allow Fred VanVleet to do what he's best at. Listen to the full episode looking at takeaways from the Rico Hines runs on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast or watch on our YouTube.

Video Transcript

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: If you think about Fred in general-- he's also mentioned it as well-- he's malleable to change. He's--


ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --willing to adapt. He's willing to kind of figure out what's necessary for the team.


ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: Said it himself in an interview, he's completely fine not bringing up the ball every single time. And I think in a lot of ways, last year, especially when Pascal was out, he probably overexerted himself in terms of on-ball reps. And I think scaling that back would just make sense for the longevity of his career.


ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: When it comes to off-ball, though, there's really no better player. There's a couple other players, but genuinely, there's no other player in the league that can be as good defensively as he is offensively as this off-ball player in a Fred VanVleet. It's really, really hard to find.

It's a rare, rare thing because you can slot him into any type of contender, any type of championship team, and he will be an off-ball player for you. But he can also be an All-Star level guy on-ball.


ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: So it's this give and take. But I do think that is the clear solution for getting Scottie more reps, for getting OG more reps. And it also puts Fred in a position where he's kind of being at his best, which is this off-ball catch and shoot guy.


ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --who can kind of attack a closeout, create from there.


ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: And it's not like they're going to be taking away every single on-ball rep of his. It's just scaling it back to a point where you can divvy it up a little bit more.

AMIT MANN: Gonna hit you with the Samuel Jackson-- I got some stats for yo ass. Ready for this? Because it goes to everything-- you created a perfect pivot for me here. So his usage last season, up until February 16, was 26.1, OK? Offensive miles ran per game in that time, he was at 1.61, most in the NBA.


AMIT MANN: Defensive miles ran in that same time span, 1.26, fourth most in the NBA. No one else is in the top five. A shout-out to Dejounte Murray and Tyrese Maxey, who are pretty close to there. But that's what his workload was.

And then to what you're talking about, OK? Shooting-- 91st percentile in 3-point shooting. 33% on pull-up 3's. 43% on catch and shoot 3's while having only 10% of his 3's considered open. 10%--


AMIT MANN: --of his 3's were considered open. Thank you, Basketball Index. You are a godsend.


AMIT MANN: Meanwhile, driving, OK, 55% at the rim-- not great, right? 55% in total isolation. Effective field goal percentage-- again, not great. But also, 93% of those rim attempts were unassisted. So it's him essentially going down the paint and just trying to make things happen.

That was a product of the injuries and the role that he had. And he was essentially the primary creator, right? He was tasked with that. Right decision? Maybe not.

But then you look a little bit further into it, and then his driving assists, his pass-out rate, that kind of stuff, it's very good, right? It's in the 88th percentile. So he's making smart decisions when he gets there.

Obviously, to put this all together, it goes to exactly what you're saying, right? He's able to attack in the paint. He's able to do that. He's a great decision-maker. But if you want to get the best out of Fred, it's a catch and shoot role. It's bringing him off screens.

It's him being the decision-maker in the pick and roll, right, because he can make good decisions. But he needs that pick and roll partner. Loved seeing what he did with Christian Koloko. I'm certain that was not the first time they've played together.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: No, there's no way, right?

AMIT MANN: Not at all.


AMIT MANN: No way, man.


AMIT MANN: There was a play that they did-- they ran a pick and roll, and then they did a reset into a dribble handoff. And it led to another Fred VanVleet-- yeah, colloquial alley-oop. I'm like, you've done that before. You've done that many times, and you know.

But it's probably another progression that Fred can make as a pick and roll ball handler, right? It's how he's able to hone in on that Kyle Lowry ability of his, that Chris Paul ability, is using angles and timing to become a pick and roll master, and really create those advantages. I mean, I've said it. You've said it, I'm sure.

We've all said it, that they need more pick and roll, right?


AMIT MANN: Fred being a better pick and roll ball handler, better decision-maker, being able to do some of those inverted pick and rolls with Pascal, Scottie, OG. You can use his gravity as a shooter as a threat. And then you combine that with his decision-making. And if you have an elite decision-maker further away from the basket, that, to me, sounds like you're stretching the defense--


AMIT MANN: --sir.

ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --there was actually a game-- I want to say it was against the Wizards, where the Raptors essentially won the game just based off those inverted pick and rolls. It was Pascal coming up--


ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --Fred setting the screen--


ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: --two times in a row, he kind of flashed-- actually, no, he flared to the left wing, I think. And wide open every single time.


ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: That is-- because they recognized that, they won a lot more games. And putting him off ball was actually something that helped a lot, especially when Pascal came back. Because he took a lot of the on-ball duties.


ESFANDIAR BARAHENI: I would expect the same thing apply to Scottie and OG coming up this season. And again, you need a guy who's malleable to that. You need a guy who's willing to do that. And it seems like Fred is also willing to do that.

And I remember Nick Nurse mentioned in an interview, I believe on-- might have been Tim and Sid, or I can't remember what it was. But he did also mention that that is kind of the plan, to give Scottie more on-ball reps, to give OG Anunoby more on-ball reps, and move Fred a little bit more off-ball. Because that's where he's at his best.