Raptors’ Fred VanVleet bets on himself, eyes max contract in FA

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 18: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - APRIL 18: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors started their season strong with a 108-105 win at home over Cleveland Cavaliers. The fans will have high hopes this season, with many considering them as the dark horses in what has become a stacked Eastern Conference.

One thing that could be slightly worrisome throughout the season is the long-term future of the team’s two best players in VanVleet and Pascal Siakam. Both of them look poised to earn extremely enticing nine-figure contracts, creating a perilous financial situation for the franchise.

Both look ready to bet on themselves, having not signed extensions with the Raptors yet. While it was pretty much expected in the case of Siakam, many believed that VanVleet would be open to signing an extension with the team early in the offseason. That has not happened.

As Josh Lewenberg pointed out, VanVleet is eligible for an extension until the end of the season and can sign up for a deal of up to $114 million over four years now. Of course, he could opt out in the summer and become an unrestricted free agent, in which case his max with the Raptors could go to a staggering $230 million over five years.

What does the future hold for Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors?

VanVleet showed his importance to this Raptors team in their opening night win over the Cavaliers by dropping 15 points, dishing out five assists, and recording four steals. He is the heart and soul of the franchise, having kept this team afloat when Siakam had injury woes last year.

VanVleet had an All-Star season in 2021-22, enjoying career-best numbers in terms of points, assists, and rebounds per game. The four-year/$114 million contract would be a no-brainer for the Raptors, but there are serious questions about his ability to live up to a $230 million contract over five years.

We’ve seen him play a very important role with the team as a backup bench gunner during the championship run. However, it’s going to be hard to build a winner with VanVleet and Siakam on max contracts, even with increased revenues and a higher salary cap.

One also has to keep in mind his injury history. VanVleet has only played more than 65 games in a season once in his career, and those missed games in 2021-22 ended up having a significant impact in the latter portion year. His numbers dropped significantly after the All-Star break.

VanVleet has been on an incredible journey with the Raptors, from going undrafted to becoming an All-Star. The best path forward for the franchise would be to keep hold of him, but only at the right price.

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