The Toronto Raptors will need to figure out what to do with Fred VanVleet in the offseason, as they will likely need to give him a four-year contract worth nine figured if they want to ward off the host of contending teams and rebuilding squads taking a look at him.
While his efficiency dissipated this season, and his poor performance in the clutch made him a frequent target of the most vocally irate section of the fanbase, the lack of truly elite options outside of him might prompt them to overpay against themselves and commit to him long-term.
The Houston Rockets are poised to spend as much as possible, with names like James Harden firmly in their crosshairs as Ime Udoka tries to win as much as possible in his debut season. With or without Harden, VanVleet’s skills are so intriguing that Houston could pay a very hefty price for them.
According to Sam Amico of Hoops Wire, the Rockets are pursuing VanVleet in tandem with Harden, giving Udoka a chance to build his own high-end backcourt on the backs of a future Hall of Famer and a champion point guard. VanVleet coming back to Toronto is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Will Fred VanVleet leave the Toronto Raptors for Houston?
The reasons against signing VanVleet are the same for both Houston and Toronto. Fred is likely exiting his prime due to his age, and his recent injury troubles due to overuse in Nick Nurse’s rotation might cause some genuine hesitation with regard to handing him a humungous contract.
However, VanVleet does have years of experience, a high floor on both ends, and proven leadership skills that will be hard for a team like the Raptors to fully replace if he decides to leave for a better opportunity elsewhere. Houston, meanwhile, will supercharge their rebuild with him at the helm.
What makes VanVleet such a desirable player is the fact that he has proven to be a vocal leader in the locker room, which will be needed on a young team that spent the last few seasons running in circles and creating an infamous culture under Stephen Silas. When paired with All-Star-level scoring and distributing at his peak, VanVleet’s value is clear.
That first game with VanVleet in bright Rockets red might be an unusual look, but it could be a vision of the future if Toronto doesn’t take Houston’s cap space seriously.