Atlantic Notes: VanVleet, Shumpert, DSJ, Knicks

Fred VanVleet became a household name among NBA fans during the Raptors‘ championship run last spring, and particularly during Game 6 of the Finals, when he knocked down five three-pointers. That success has now carried over to the 2019/20 season. As Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes, VanVleet is proving to the Raptors and to the rest of the league that he’s capable of being a starting point guard.

VanVleet has started all 11 of the Raptors’ games so far, first alongside Kyle Lowry and now in Lowry’s place at point guard as the veteran recovers from a thumb injury. VanVleet has made 40.6% of his three-pointers in those 11 games, and his 17.1 PPG, 7.6 APG, and league-leading 38.5 MPG would all easily be career bests.

With 2020’s free agent class expected to be quite weak, VanVleet – who is in the final season of a two-year, $18MM deal – projects to be one of the top point guards available. He won’t be eligible for an extension before reaching the open market, so the Raptors will almost certainly have to ward off rival suitors next summer if they intend to lock up VanVleet beyond this season.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • After the Nets signed Iman Shumpert to a contract on Wednesday, Chris Milholen of NetsDaily explores what the veteran swingman is capable of bringing to Brooklyn and why he’s a “safe” addition for the club.
  • The Knicks considered sending Dennis Smith Jr. to their G League affiliate in Westchester for some low-pressure minutes after he spent two weeks away from New York, but ultimately opted not to do so, per head coach David Fizdale. “We thought about it, but we just felt like it wasn’t an injury that took him out,” Fizdale said Wednesday, per Greg Joyce of The New York Post. “It was more from a conditioning standpoint. So what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna play him, try to play him in smaller doses to get him back in shape.”
  • How did the Knicks end up in their current dilemma, with Fizdale on the hot seat and top front office executives facing similar pressure? ESPN’s Brian Windhorst revisits the franchise’s last year and a half, starting with Fizdale’s introductory press conference back in May 2018, providing a blow-by-blow account of the turning points during that time.
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