BROOKLYN - Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet made his first career regular-season start last month and envisions himself in that role permanently.
"Yeah, I'm going to be a starter, it's just a matter of when," VanVleet told NBA.com on Friday ahead of the Raptors' overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets. "Right now, my role is to come off the bench, be a backup point guard and lead the team and try to be a spark and make big plays."
With Kawhi Leonard injured, VanVleet entered Toronto's lineup on Nov. 17 against the Chicago Bulls and posted a season-high 18 points in a 122-83 win. The 24-year-old has since started two additional games, and the Raptors are 3-0 when VanVleet starts.
The Wichita State alum has evolved from an undrafted unknown in 2016 into a vital piece off the Raptors' bench. Last season, VanVleet averaged 8.6 points, 3.2 assists and shot 41.4 percent from three in 76 games and made one start in the postseason.
VanVleet was a finalist for Sixth Man of the Year but finished third in voting behind winner Lou Williams and runner-up Eric Gordon.
Toronto re-signed VanVleet, then a restricted free agent, to a two-year, $18 million this past summer. With four-time All-Star and current assists leader Kyle Lowry still the incumbent, VanVleet retained his role as the backup point guard. Lowry, 32, is under contract for one additional season beyond 2018-19 and VanVleet hopes he can seize that spot if the time comes.
"I'd love to stay in Toronto for the rest of my career," he said. "Obviously Kyle [Lowry] can't play forever so hopefully, we milk him for everything he's got and then, once he's done we'll see what happens. I love being in Toronto and I don't want to leave anytime soon."
VanVleet admitted that he has not given much thought to his status past this season. Regardless, his preparation - whether he is starting or coming off the bench - does not change.
"I'm embracing my role and trying to be the best I can be in that," VanVleet said. "But I'm going to be a starter in this league very, very soon. I prepare like that every day and that's my mindset going forward."