When it's all said and done, Fred VanVleet might retire the greatest pound for pound shot blocker in NBA history.
It's strange to think of the Toronto Raptors' barely 6-foot-1 point guard as an elite shot blocker. Frankly, even he doesn't think of himself as a shot blocker, but after a four-block performance against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, the facts are the facts. VanVleet has recorded 27 blocks this season, the second-most of any Raptors and the second-most of any guard in the league this year.
But the thing about VanVleet's blocks is they aren't really blocked, per se. He has this uncanny ability to get his hands on the ball the moment an opposing player goes up to shoot. It's not like when Chris Boucher swats a ball into the second row of the stands, with VanVleet it's far more subtle.
Here are his four blocks from Tuesday. Two of them came against the 7-foot Joel Embiid.
"I have to protest and talk to the league about how to get some of those as steals," VanVleet said Tuesday night. "Every time I think I got a big steal game I go to the locker room and they give me three, four blocks, I can't do nothing with blocks, they don't do nothing for me, you know what I mean? But if I added those on to the steals, I think I'd be running away with the steals lead."
He's right. If his 0.8 blocks per game were added to his 1.7 steals per game — the seventh most in the NBA — he'd be far and away the NBA's steals leader.
When it comes to getting those so-called "blocks" there are two things that make VanVleet so special. For one, he has ridiculously strong hands. It's one thing to strip the ball from a tiny guard, but it's a whole other thing when you're ripping the ball away of a big man going up with force.
"My hands are pretty sore after each game," he said. "I can make contact with it a lot, but this is the most that I've actually come away with it. Just making a more concerted effort to make the play and go the other way."
The other component is his hand speed and knowledge. VanVleet said he is constantly studying opposing players' tendencies, trying to figure out where and when they like to go up with it. Once he has that figured out, it's just a matter of getting his hands in quick enough to snatch the ball away. For that, he's thankful he has a background in boxing.
"I was in my share of fights whether I'd be outside or in the house with my brothers, so I've always had quick hands," he said. "That's just something that I've had since I was a little kid that I developed growing up, so it is no different."
While it might not be a traditional block. It might not come with a Dikembe Mutombo finger wag or anything, VanVleet's "blocks" are certainly just as effective.