As first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, Fred VanVleet has agreed to a 4-year, $85-million contract to return to the Toronto Raptors. As it turns out: betting on yourself works.
According to Charania, the deal includes a player option in year 4.
Update: Michael Grange has added some color to the contract:
I'm told VanVleet's 4yr/$85 deal (player option in yr 4) starts at $21.25 and then decreases by 8% in yr 2 (2021/22) before ramping up again. The drop going into summer of 2021 helps preserve Raptors cap space.— Michael Grange (@michaelgrange) November 21, 2020
The Raptors made it clear that retaining VanVleet was their top priority this offseason; the deal seems like a fair one for both sides.
You all know VanVleet’s story by now: He famously “bet on himself” following the 2016 draft where he went undrafted, and turned a free agent deal with Toronto into a regular rotation role on Toronto’s bench mob by his second year (after winning a D-League championship with the Raptors 905 in his first year). That led to a two-year, $18 million deal ahead of the 2018-19 season, in which he had a solid season as Toronto’s backup PG and then famously broke out of a playoff slump in time to help the Raptors win their first-ever championship (losing a tooth along the way).
This past season was VanVleet’s best yet; he became a full-time starter, playing alongside Kyle Lowry in the backcourt. He averaged career-highs of 17.6 points, 6.6 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 35.7 minutes a game, and shot 39% from downtown. He also played excellent defense all season long, both on and off the ball, and led the league in deflections while ranking third in steals. While VanVleet has his flaws, he’s a reliable, steady presence on both ends of the floor.
The deal is similar to the one that Malcolm Brogdon signed with Indiana last offseason, that had been used as a barometer for what kind of salary VanVleet might command. As such, the price seems like it’s right on the money (so to speak). While we can’t say for sure just yet what the Raptors’ books will look like in the important 2021 free agency period — Serge Ibaka is still out there, and OG Anunoby is extension eligible, and Norman Powell has a player option — the average annual value of Fred’s deal, especially with that lower year 2 salary, should keep the Raptors in the running for a max contract player next offseason.
For VanVleet, he gets a big payday, and while it’s possible the New York Knicks may have offered more money, VanVleet gets to remain with a stable, well-managed organization, where he has a path to becoming the full-time floor leader should Kyle Lowry retire or move on.
In other words: It’s a win-win for both sides!
The first 18 hours or so of free agency seemed to make the Raptors fanbase a little antsy; lots was happening, but not with our team. As always, it’s best not to doubt Masai Ujiri; while other teams are scrambling and handing out questionable deals with no discernible plans, Ujiri and Bobby Webster are quietly working behind the scenes to execute their carefully laid-out strategies. The angst is understandable — it wasn’t that long ago that players routinely left Toronto without so much as a meeting. But that time appears to be in the past.
Now, we get celebrate the return of one of the best young players in the organization, and look forward to building around a stable core of VanVleet and Pascal Siakam for years to come.