It wasn’t quite the potentially franchise-altering threat that Kyle Lowry’s possible departure represented a year ago, but the looming free agency of Sixth Man of the Year finalist Fred VanVleet was certainly cause for concern for Raptors fans as free agency opened up.
Rest easy. Per Yahoo’s Shams Charania, the Raptors are bringing VanVleet back on a two-year / $18 million deal.
Restricted free agent Fred VanVleet has agreed to a two-year, $18 million deal to return to Toronto, league sources tell Yahoo.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 1, 2018
This would appear to be something of a compromise between team and player. After the Suns signed Trevor Ariza just an hour past midnight, the most logical and threatening suitor for Fred’s services saw its cap space almost entirely consumed.
With a depressed market, VanVleet’s leverage was weakened. But instead of the Raptors low-balling him while essentially bidding against themselves and no one else, they forked over a sum slightly higher the figures that seemed to be thrown around in any VanVleet conversations over the last few weeks, but with a term half as long as he was eligible for.
This amounts to something of a prolonged bet by Fred on himself. In two year’s time, with the cap reported projected to spike to $116 million and the nonsensical deals of Summer 2016 a thing of the past around the league, Fred will re-enter free agency with a chance to truly cash in — this time with up to two extra seasons of proven production on his resumé.
Toronto will also get two more years to look at both VanVleet and Delon Wright, and decide — as Kyle Lowry’s contract expires — whether one, both or neither are equipped to take the reigns at point guard as the full-time starter.
VanVleet deal (who's down with FVV?) brings Raps to about $136.5M in 18-19 salary -- $13M-ish over the tax.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) July 1, 2018
Toronto now rests firmly inside the luxury tax, and will have to shed one of their larger salaries, be it Norman Powell, Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan, or Serge Ibaka to duck it. But with a favourable cap forecast, and a pivot point for this core existing next summer as Lowry and Ibaka’s deals near expiration, maybe the corporate overlords will see it justifiable to pay the tax for a year in lieu of shipping off assets for negative return.
All of that remains to be seen. What is certain, though: Opposing second units are going to get no reprieve for at least two years.