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Before knee and hip issues derailed his season, Fred VanVleet was playing like one of the best players in the Eastern Conference and it was stamped in a comeback win vs. the Utah Jazz. Listen to the full 'Raptors Awards' episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch on our Yahoo Sports Canada YouTube.
AMIT MANN: Most impressive performances-- pivoting to that.
- Fred-- oh! Freddie Logo knocks it down!
AMIT MANN: Fred VanVleet versus Utah-- OK? 37 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists-- he went 8-8 in the third quarter. 24 points, scored 17 straight Raptor points-- one shy of the record set by Vince Carter, which was 18. That was a game where-- you rarely see-- you feel like you're watching a superstar-- a person just take over the game on both sides of the court. He was stealing the ball. He was passing the ball. He was hitting these ridiculous shots-- transition threes, getting to the rim. And when I was looking at that footage earlier on today, it made me realize how injured Fred VanVleet actually was because you see the explosion that he had towards the basket-- his acceleration, the stop-and-go-- all that stuff was gone at the end of the season. He had literally nothing. I'm not sure what percentage he was on, but it couldn't have been more than 40.
He was such a different player in that 76ers series down the stretch of the season. It was unfortunate to see it that way because the Raptors would have looked like a very different team. And, unfortunately, you know, he decided-- made the decision that he was going to fight through and try and help the team. It didn't work out, unfortunately, because, I mean, he just wasn't himself. And in some ways he was actually hurting the team because he just wasn't able to get to that level of play that he was accustomed to. His catch-and-shoot three really went away. And he was also becoming a bit of a liability on the defensive end, at least in that 76ers series. And those aren't things that were really common of seeing Fred VanVleet. But that game really stuck out to me. I think we're forgetting how good he is because it's been so long-- since the All-Star break-- that we've seen him be at that caliber of player. And yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing him healthy again. That'd be amazing.
AARON ROSE: Yeah, you mentioned-- he was at that caliber. He was a shoo-in to be an All-Star. We heard every single night, coaches would come to Toronto, and we'd ask them, so do you think Fred's an All-Star? And, to a man, they were all like, this man is a stud. He's somebody who we game plan for. He doesn't get enough respect. We saw in the first half of the season just how special this guy could be. The Raptors, as we just talked about it with that Chris Boucher meme, need to limit his minutes a little bit because he's not this athletic freak and not this 6' 5" monster. You have to take care of him. And I expect we'll see that next season. But if can keep him healthy, he's still a guy that you need to keep around because of what he can do and what he showed in that first half.
AMIT MANN: Yeah. And to the credit of the Raptors-- I mean, this was a hot topic with Nick Nurse and Masai Ujiri-- is why did you play your starters so much? And they finally kind of really divulged their plan-- that yeah, we ran our starters to the ground because that's our core. That's our tier one of players that we want to see produce and become part of our championship core going forward, so we needed them to get reps. They needed time. So yeah, we're going to play them 39 minutes, 49 minutes, 55 minutes, whatever the case is because those are valuable reps for them. And it's going to help them become better players, and you're going to make them uncomfortable. That's why Gary Trent Jr. was working in the pick-and-roll as a ball handler-- not something he's really accustomed to doing.
OG Anunoby-- that early season stretch. A lot of stuff happened because of injuries, and it is what it is. But he became a better player because of all these reps he got in different situations, and it's going to make the Raptors that much better next season. And with Fred, yeah-- a backup point guard. I would love to see Malachi Flynn take some of those minutes. It's unfortunate for Malachi to some degree. Just sidebar-- there's like three point guards before him, right? You have Pascal. You got Scottie. And you got Fred VanVleet-- and Delano Banton to some degree, although he'll be-- kind of transitions to a shooting guard if he's able to hit threes at that clip. But yeah, it would be cool to see a backup point guard-- s true backup point guard-- emerge because as the Raptors-- as we're talking about them getting some more rest for their starters and not overworking them, you need a backup point guard. That way, also Scottie and Pascal can get some rest as well. Next one for me was--