The Toronto Raptors continue their work towards back-to-back NBA championships but reports are already emerging about one of their stars potentially leaving in free agency.
Less than 24 hours after the Toronto Raptors completed an impressive sweep of the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the NBA playoffs with a 150-122 scoreline, reports have begun to surface that there will be strong interest in the services of point guard Fred VanVleet.
Per Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Sportsnet), VanVleet has turned things up a notch in this post-season, leading the team in scoring in Games 1 and 2 and averaging 21.3 points and 7.8 assists throughout the four-game sweep.
With his two-year, $9 million per season contract expiring after the season, the reports expressed a belief that a number of teams could be suitors for the 26-year-old Rockford, Illinois native.
The Detroit Pistons, Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks were all named as possible landing points for VanVleet, who has so far played his entire professional career in Toronto, having joined the organization as an undrafted rookie in 2016.
With his strong performances in the post-season so far, it’s understandable that VanVleet would garner such interest from teams around the NBA, with the 2019-20 season arguably the best of his career so far.
Prior to the post-season, VanVleet had a stellar regular-season, averaging career-highs in a number of statistical categories, including average minutes played (35.7), points per game (17.6), field goals and field goal attempts per game (5.9 and 14.3) as well as averaging 3.8 total rebounds per game (3.8) while specializing with 3.4 defensive rebounds per game.
It’s clear that VanVleet is in line to receive a decent pay rise once the season is over, especially if he can help the Raptors earn a second consecutive NBA championship, and his value is extremely high to the team, which makes the idea of him walking in free agency almost inconceivable.
At present, for the 2020/21 season, the Toronto Raptors have over $75 million in cap space available – plenty of room to work with when negotiating a new deal for VanVleet and unlikely to be a significant barrier to him returning next season.
What would also make little sense for VanVleet is if he chose to leave the franchise to join one of the others included in the reports, with none of them making the playoffs this season while the Raptors are the reigning NBA champions and have a real shot at reaching the finals again this season.
Leaving a team that you are familiar with and is arguably entering a golden era of success doesn’t seem to be a logical decision, especially if it is for a team that couldn’t reach the playoffs and has far less certain futures ahead.
Getting financial security will be a priority for VanVleet this summer, especially after he has shown what he is truly capable of when given the chance to start more often, but ensuring he can continue to be successful in the league is also something that he will likely have in the back of his mind when all is said and done.