The Toronto Raptors will be at the center of one of the most contentious free agent battles in the league during the next few days, as Fred VanVleet could hit the open market while seeking one more giant payday.
While the Raptors reportedly want to retain VanVleet and are willing to pay top dollar to do so, they won’t be the only team out there with eyes on the prize. Ime Udoka and the Houston Rockets have more cap space than any other team, and they won’t be shy about trying to use it.
If they are unable to convince James Harden to leave the 76ers and come back to the spot that made him famous, VanVleet seems like the most logical player to come in and fill that hole. According to an insider, the sparks between the two parties are heating up.
Marc Stein’s latest rumor drop claims that his initial speculations on the fit between VanVleet and Houston were correct. One interesting wrinkle to this case is the fact that VanVleet is expected to earn a shorter two-year contract that pays him more than $40 million per season with the Rockets.
NBA rumors: Raptors PG Fred VanVleet linked to Rockets again.
VanVleet going to Houston might make more sense from a basketball perspective than a return to Toronto. The Raptors are trying to retool their roster in order to stay competitive and move on to the Scottie Barnes era, while the Rockets need a star or star-adjacent player to transition from taking to winning.
With an interesting young core of Jalen Green, Jabari Smith, and Alperen Sengun already in place and No. 4 pick Amen Thompson coming to town, the Rockets have a sustainable group of starters and tons of cap space to woo VanVleet. Who could be a better veteran mentor for Thompson than VanVleet?
VanVleet is an aging player who has had some injuries in the past few seasons. Because of this, not a soul would harshly criticize him if he decided to simply take the best fiscal offer out there and follow the money. Toronto’s own financial constraints might make it tough to match that offer.
While the Raptors can give VanVleet a competitive offer and promise him the familiarity that a new destination like the Rockets would be unable to provide, Houston may have a bigger war chest at their disposal and the benefits of no state tax. If VanVleet is eyeing a payday, the Rockets might be the spot for him.