Should early season struggles impact Raptors-Fred VanVleet extension talks?

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 07: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - NOVEMBER 07: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors have had a fairly average season, sitting at just 13-13 and 9th in the conference. In part to getting hit with major injuries early in the season, but Fred VanVleet, who had a career year the season prior, is having an extremely underwhelming season 26 games in.

VanVleet is certainly not the only one to blame, but his play has been nowhere close to his All-Star year last season, and he has seen his numbers plummet. VanVleet is averaging 16.9 PPG while shooting a horrendous 36% from the field (worst since rookie year) and a career-low 32% from beyond the arc.

A drop in his numbers wasn’t the most surprising thing to see, as VanVleet said he was ready to take a “step back” in his role to allow young guys such as Scottie Barnes to thrive, which has not happened to this point. However, shooting 36% from the field is simply unacceptable, no matter what your role is.

Prior to the season, an extension between VanVleet and the Raptors was discussed and seemed all but certain. With a less-than-ideal start to the season, could his days in Toronto be in jeopardy?

Should the Toronto Raptors reconsider extending Fred VanVleet?

The Raptors have gone all-in on adding “lengthy wings” to their roster, yet 6-0 VanVleet, a clear outlier, remains on the roster. His ability to spread the floor, along with his tenacity on defense, is why Toronto has kept him around for seven seasons. However, these offensive traits have not shown up this season.

Not to gang up on Fred here, but his situation is looking awfully similar to Kemba Walker’s. Walker signed a four-year, $140 million with the Celtics at 29 years old. That blew up in Boston’s face as nagging knee injuries caused Walker to be salary-dumped after just year two of the deal.

VanVleet, who will turn 29 next year, hasn’t been himself since suffering a knee injury after the All-Star break. Not that he will turn out exactly like Walker, but perhaps Ujiri will look at how it turned out for the division-rival Celtics before handing out a bag to an undersized point guard, just like Boston.

There’s still time for VanVleet and the Raptors to turn this ship around, however with the trade deadline not too far away, it’s not looking great for those hoping fan-favorite VanVleet remains in Toronto beyond this season. Even if an extension gets done, VanVleet may not get the nine-figure deal he thought he would.

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