When the NBA announced the starters for the All-Star game on Feb. 18, it became official that for the first time since 2014, a Raptor would not have their name called out at the global showcase event.
Toronto paid the price for a slow start in that regard but the manner in which they’ve bounced back from their 2-8 start shows that this is a team that will be a difficult out in the post-season and that would be impossible without some terrific individual play worthy of at least one All-Star selection.
Pascal Siakam has been terrific over the past 13 games, averaging 23.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists while shooting 37 percent from three-point range, but took too long to round into form. Kyle Lowry has been as expected in the 25 games he’s played, but the games missed and lack of eye-popping numbers leave him short of being the best candidate. No one has been a constant for the Raptors nor made a leap quite like Fred VanVleet this season.
Now in his fifth NBA season, VanVleet is averaging 20.1 points, 6.6 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 steals. Those numbers don’t necessarily scream All-Star, but that’s because he’s never emptying the clip unless he needs to. When the Raptors have broken glass, VanVleet has scored 25 points or more on 11 occasions including 54 on the Magic and 33 on the Bucks—the latter a statement win coming with no Lowry for the second half. No one has more deflections this season than him and he is tied for second in loose balls recovered behind reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.
If it were up to him, he’d be there.
“Of course I feel like I’m an All-Star,” VanVleet said when asked about his chances. “I’m a confident guy. I don’t work this hard to not feel that way. I don’t play the way that I play to not feel that way. So, of course, I would love to be an All-Star. I would love to have the respect of the coaches in the league. But I don’t play the game for that, you know what I’m saying? Does that make sense? But yeah, it would be nice to be recognized that way.”
It’s clear VanVleet has a case, but there are plenty others who have their own case as well. Let’s go through the process of elimination to determine if Mr. Bet on Yourself’s odds are more in favour of being picked or snubbed.