Fred VanVleet bet on himself when he signed his current contract with the Toronto Raptors — a four year, 85 million dollar deal with a fourth-year player option — and it’s paid off. In the literal sense, because he’s rich, and in the figurative sense that he’s probably going to make even MORE money in the coming months.
On June 15, it will be time for VanVleet to decide whether or not he will take his player option, worth 22.8 million dollars. Basically, a player option is when a player can decide whether or not they want to exercise the last year of their contract, or become a free agent.
For players, it’s a safety net — if you don’t reach expectations in the first three years of the contract, you can opt into that fourth year and get paid. If you feel like you’ve exceeded expectations and deserve MORE money, you decline the option and hit the market.
As it currently stands, Fred VanVleet is heading into the fourth year of his contract with a player option that will be decided on in the next few days. In the three years since he signed this deal, he’s become an NBA All-Star, secured the Toronto Raptors franchise record for most points in a single game, and steadily climbed the record books in other categories. He continuously is a top contender in the NBA for steals per game and minutes played. He has cemented himself as an iconic Toronto Raptor.
The undrafted player out of Rockford, Illinois has also made himself a household name throughout the league as a shooter and playmaker. Despite the rocky season from both VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors, many teams around the league are interested in snagging VanVleet.
So, will he stay or will he go?
The first thing that seems pretty obvious to those who are familiar with VanVleet as a player is that he will most likely decline his 22.8 million player option for the Raptors. For a guy who’s mantra is “Bet On Yourself,” who is now an All-Star, he knows he can get more money — but the question is whether or not the Raptors will pay him what he want or if he will seek that elsewhere. Plus, the salary cap is now higher than it was when he last signed — so there is more money out there in general for him to make.
Fred VanVleet is expected to decline his $22.8M player option and leave the Toronto Raptors in free agency this offseason.— Jake Weinbach (@JWeinbachNBA) June 11, 2023
Chicago, Orlando, New Orleans, Houston, and the Lakers all make sense as teams that could pursue VanVleet.
There have been contradicting reports on whether or not the Toronto Raptors offered VanVleet a contract extension at the beginning of the 2022-2023 season. Initially it was reported that they extended a $114 million offer to him, and he declined. That number was the highest the Raptors could possibly offer him due to CBA restrictions.
Then, weeks later, Michael Grange of Sportsnet reported that VanVleet denied those reports, saying that all parties thought it would be best to “wait it out.” Basically, he wanted to explore his options.
Many teams have been interested in VanVleet. Around the trade deadline, many rumours speculated he may be on his way to the Orlando Magic in coming months. Rumours floated that he was the perfect addition to a talented Milwaukee Bucks team — speculation that will surely run more rampant now that Adrian Griffin is taking over as head coach. Griffin and VanVleet have a great relationship.
Chicago, New Orleans, Houston and the LA Lakers have all come up as well. A lot of the destinations VanVleet seems to be suited for are places with a lot of young talent. It makes sense, VanVleet is a known leader, and his journey of coming up from being undrafted to now being an undisputed All-Star would surely motivate the younger players around him.
Marc Stein recently reported that it looked like BOTH VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. (who also has a player option this season) would be headed out of Toronto. Despite these rumours, the Raptors organization would like to think of itself as in a “retool” as opposed to a “rebuild.” There are so many questions with this roster that trying to figure ANY of it feels like running around in endless circles. Or, like this:
Despite all the speculation that Fred VanVleet will be headed OUT of Toronto this summer as a free agent, Marc Stein and Chris Haynes said on Monday’s edition of #thisleague UNCUT podcast that he has heard that it is “more likely than not” that VanVleet will reach deal to stay with the Toronto Raptors.
It makes sense for him to stay in a lot of ways. Most of the teams he is speculated to be in talks with are young developing teams, either at the same level as the Raptors or even farther from contention. He’s settled in Toronto with his young family. He has the respect of the franchise, and the fans. The team is his in a lot of ways, with his leadership coming into play.
He’s young as well, at 29 years old there is no immediate rush for him to get to a contending team — especially since he already has a championship under his belt. Sure, he is always going to want more championships, but he shouldn’t be desperate for it to happen tomorrow. Will he trust the process in Toronto or try and take his efforts somewhere else?
It also makes sense for him to go off and try something new, especially if money is his main motivator. He certainly won’t take less money just to stay with a team who didn’t even make the playoffs this past season. Maybe in a bigger market he will get more overall NBA recognition. Maybe he does end up with a big role on a contending team, or a team who (like Miami right now), shocks everyone with how far they get.
There’s also a ton of risk for the Raptors in Fred VanVleet’s situation. As a free agent, there is a possibility of Fred VanVleet signing with another team and the Raptors getting nothing in return for a player they’ve spent years developing into an All-Star. There is the possibility of a sign and trade, but VanVleet leaving in general could be the dagger that would cement the Raptors officially into development and rebuild mode.
Fred VanVleet averaged 19.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game in the 2022-2023 season for the Toronto Raptors.