The Toronto Raptors will be without a key contributor as the race to the top of the Eastern Conference grows increasingly heated. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, Raptors guard Fred VanVleet will be sidelined for the next five weeks or so as he recovers from surgery to address torn ligaments in his left thumb:
Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet will undergo surgery for ligament damage in his left thumb and miss approximately five weeks, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) February 13, 2019
VanVleet suffered the injury in the second quarter of his team’s win over the New York Knicks on Saturday. He sat out of the Raptors’ ensuing victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Monday, with the team announcing he would miss three weeks of play. Subsequent reporting indicated VanVleet would wear a splint on his injured thumb, a course of treatment that has evidently been deemed ineffective in the interim.
The reigning second runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year, VanVleet has struggled this season to build on the success that made him one of the league’s most pleasant surprises a year ago. He’s averaging career highs of 10.5 points, 2,7 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game, but that uptick in counting statistics is explained by additional playing time more than anything else. VanVleet is getting 26.8 minutes per game this season, nearly seven more than last year, and he has already started 22 games due to various injuries to Toronto’s backcourt. He’s shooting just 40.3 percent overall and 36.6 percent from beyond the arc, though, comfortably worse than 2017-18.
The Raptors signed Jeremy Lin earlier this week after the veteran guard was bought out by the Atlanta Hawks. Due to the extended absence of VanVleet, he stands to play a bigger role for the Raptors, a game behind the Milwaukee Bucks for first place in the East, than originally anticipated.