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Raptors choose Fred VanVleet for 15th roster spot

And so ends the preseason’s most interesting story line.

Toronto Raptors v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Toronto’s preseason camp battles weren’t exactly the league’s meatiest. Still, over the course of the eons-long month of October, we managed to picked the bones of the backup centre and 15th roster spot competitions clean.

When it comes to who will occupy the end of the Raptors’ bench, we mercifully have some clarity. Per The Vertical’s Shams Charania, former Wichita State star Fred VanVleet has earned the team’s final roster spot and third point guard role to start the season, beating out the likes of Drew Crawford and long-shot Brady Heslip.

Playing 20 minutes a night over the course of seven preseason games, VanVleet averaged 8.3 points, 2.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field and 38.5 percent from long range. He flashed a game that is entirely unflashy. Steady control is VanVleet’s M.O. From a third point guard who will likely only be relied upon in case of emergency, that’s an ideal profile.

VanVleet’s short term spot with the club is now ensured, but what the Raptors choose to do with him once Delon Wright makes his return from a shoulder injury around the New Year is a question that will loom. If VanVleet excels in what ever playing time he receives, expect the Wright vs. VanVleet debate to live in the comment sections of sites like this.

Toronto invested a first-round pick in Wright, so losing his spot on the team to an undrafted free agent seems unlikely. At the same time, waiving VanVleet to make room for Wright when he returns would put the Raptors at risk of losing a guy they’re reportedly quite high on.

In a roundabout way, Wright’s prolonged absence to start the year is a blessing for the Raptors. It’ll give the team time to evaluate VanVleet in practices and garbage time, and also give the roster an opportunity to congeal and reveal its weak points. Who knows? Maybe Cory Joseph or Kyle Lowry become bitten by injuries, or an unexpected trade opens up room for both Wright an VanVleet on the roster. The buffer time ahead of Wright’s return give the Raptors the opportunity to postpone a tough decision until a later date.

A lot can change in a couple of months. But for now, welcome to the show, Fred.

What do you think of the Raptors’ decision to give VanVleet the 15th roster spot?