Can Raptors afford to keep Fred VanVleet for 2023 and beyond?

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 11: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors is guarded by Kevin Porter Jr. #3 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 11: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors is guarded by Kevin Porter Jr. #3 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

Toronto Raptors star Fred VanVleet has one of the most heartwarming stories in the NBA. Coming from the most improbable ranks and eventually ascending to the level of All-Star guard, VanVleet has made himself the highest-paid undrafted player in NBA history.

Vanvleet has spent six years in the NBA, all with Toronto. He has gone from an undrafted free agent in the summer of 2016 to NBA Champion in 2019 and NBA All-Star in 2022. The accomplishments are outstanding for the diminutive guard out of Witchita State.

However, with the time approaching for VanVleet to sign his next deal swiftly coming, the Raptors may need to perform some severe salary cap gymnastics in order to make sure they can retain him and keep most of their outstanding squad intact for the future.

There is a slight chance that VanVleet may be too expensive for the Toronto Raptors to keep around. With so many big-name players on this roster due for potential extensions or new contracts in the next few years, the Raptors need to be very careful in how they approach negotiating his next contract.

Will the Toronto Raptors go all-in to sign Fred VanVleet?

Vanvleet, who will begin the third year of a four-year, $85 million contract he signed in November of 2020, has a player option for 2023-24, after which he becomes a free agent. There was chatter earlier this off-season that he would get a four-year, $110 million contract extension. The deal has not been consummated.

The Raptors’ management team will need to consider contract extensions for key players like Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa, and Gary Trent Jr. The off-season two years from now could be pretty hectic for the Raptors given all of the money that will be thrown around.

Scottie Barnes also has a presumed extension coming his way in a few years. Can the Raptors feasibly carry four contracts that exceed $100 million in total value and still field a championship team?

In 2022, Vanvleet averaged 20.3 points and 6.7 assists per game on 40.3% shooting efficiency. Raptors’ management craves taller players with near seven-foot wing spans, and this is not VanVleet.

At age 28, with knee problems that hindered his play this season and a hip injury that limited his playoff effectiveness, management could be leery of committing to him long-term. The idea of leaning on Barnes as an oversized point guard could make some sense.

There is still time to make a decision, and VanVleet has time to dispel and alleviate any of the concerns about his height, health, and on-court consistency. With the off-season moves that were made, he should not need to be on the floor for nearly 38 minutes a game. This could help his performance.

Ultimately, how far this roster can get with Siakam, VanVleet, and the sophomore Barnes as its nucleus in the next few years may determine if VanVleet gets re-signed to a nine-figure deal.

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