Raptors Notes: VanVleet, Achiuwa, Boucher, Depth

Fred VanVleet made changes to his diet as well as his strength and conditioning regimen in order to stay healthy while playing heavy minutes, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. Lewenberg notes that VanVleet has played the second-most minutes per game in the NBA over the past three seasons (trailing only James Harden), and 47 of his 55 missed games over that span have come in the second half of seasons.

It’s a 12-month season now, year ‘round,” said a noticeably slimmer VanVleet. “Hopefully I can stay on this regimen the rest of my career. There’s always gonna be new changes and things you have to adjust and adapt to as you try to grow. I’ve had a hell of a run so far, so to continue to try to keep growing is going to be challenging every year but I’m up for it.”

Head coach Nick Nurse said the team hopes to reduce VanVleet’s workload in 2022/23, but it’s more complicated than just following a prescribed plan.

It’s not easy,” Nurse said, per Lewenberg. “When you got a super competitive guy who’s playing great and he wants to play, to rest him, to just say, ‘Sorry, it’s your rest time, we don’t care what’s happening on the floor right now, it’s your rest time,’ that’s hard to do. But I think we learned a lot about how we can shift our team around without him in there and I think that we’re going to need to be able to do that. I hope we can get it done.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Precious Achiuwa‘s development is one of the keys to Toronto’s standing in the East, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Achiuwa made an immediate impact as a defender in his first year with the Raptors in ’21/22, but struggled on offense. However, he had a big second half last season, and if he can build upon that, the Raptors will be that much more dangerous, Grange notes. Nurse says the third-year big man has impressed early on in training camp. “I think that he’s improving all the time. I think he had a great especially last half. I’ve already talked about I think he had a great spring, summer, fall so far, and he’s looked really good during the first three practices,” said Nurse. “So you know, I think a good step forward for him is expected by him, first and foremost, which is the most important, and by all of us, yeah.”
  • Both Nurse and Chris Boucher are hoping for more consistency from the “really unique” big man, who signed a three-year, $35MM contract to remain with the Raptors. “There are some nights when he’s picking and popping and not hitting those, and he can’t live in that world, that’s always just extra for us,” Nurse said, per Lori Ewing of The Toronto Star. “(He has to) continue to run, continue to crash the glass, continue to block shots and continue to be that spirit, that force of spirit that he is out there and playing hard.”
  • In another article for Sportsnet, Grange writes that the Raptors are more confident in their depth after adding Otto Porter and Juancho Hernangomez in free agency, plus having a full season of Thaddeus Young, who signed an extension shortly before free agency opened. Young players like Malachi Flynn, Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie could also be important depth pieces if they continue to improve, Grange adds.
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