Fred VanVleet’s contract demands could hurt trade chances

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 14: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 14: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

Early Monday afternoon, Fred VanVleet announced he would be declining his $22.8 million player option for next season. Heading into the open market, the former All-Star point guard is looking for a pay raise while hoping to test the waters of free agency. The Toronto Raptors now have a serious dilemma on their hands.

Due to the rules of Bird rights, the Raptors could still extend Fred VanVleet for a four-year $114 million deal. This contract would lock up a huge portion of the Raptors’ payroll and would likely paralyze their chances of signing any other significant players.

Toronto could also explore a sign-and-trade, as VanVleet will be a highly targeted free agent. If Masai Ujiri could orchestrate a swap, the Raptors would be able to lose VanVleet in exchange for some assets, be it players or draft picks.

If they fail to do so, the Raptors will be letting one of their best development projects and a valuable asset walk for nothing. With Ujiri having already flipped Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat for Precious Achiuwa, he has some experience getting value for point guards at this stage of their careers.

Can the Raptors’ front office capitalize on VanVleet, or will they let him walk to a team like Houston or Orlando for nothing?

Can the Toronto Raptors organize a Fred VanVleet sign-and-trade?

VanVleet will likely be seeking a contract in the range of $28-30 million annually. A salary of this size will need to either be matched by another player with a significant salary or a collection of smaller paycheques that could, in theory, equal VanVleet.

Using ESPN’s salary tracker, if VanVleet is able to ink a $30 million deal, he would be in the top 40 highest-paid players in the NBA. He would make more than Jaylen Brown and even De’Aaron Fox. It is hard to see a lot of teams justifying a contract of that size for VanVleet.

The sign-and-trade option would be most beneficial for the Raptors, as they would get a return, but VanVleet’s asking price may put a wrench in any negotiations. $30 million for a good playmaker and inconsistent shooter is a tough deal to stomach for some.

Not to mention, this trade is limited to teams looking for a point guard and has the assets to make the deal happen. This is not a widely available opportunity for every franchise. Toronto is truly at a crossroads, and VanVleet’s contract expectations may damage the Raptors’ opportunity to capitalize on his exit.

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