It’s now official. Fred VanVleet is leaving Scottie Barnes and the Toronto Raptors after he agreed to a three-year $128 million deal with the Houston Rockets.
VanVleet was an important player for the Raptors in the last few seasons, but for a team who got eliminated from the play-in when the year one year removed from winning 48 games, it would’ve been a head-scratching to go over the luxury tax when this team is underachieving.
That’s why it made sense not to re-sign VanVleet to such a rich contract, as it would have made the team financially inflexible. In terms of who will step up to make up for VanVleet’s absence in the short term, the player that should benefit from VanVleet leaving is Barnes.
Scottie Barnes will benefit from Fred VanVleet leaving the Toronto Raptors.
Barnes is a promising forward that can pass, shoot, and defend, but his ball-handling and ability to generate offense will take center stage. With VanVleet gone, Barnes can be Toronto’s starting point guard, fully unleashing the potential of the former Rookie of the Year.
Now that VanVleet is with the Rockets, this allows Barnes to show his passing ability even more than he had been. While the idea of making him a Jokic-esque point forward could be appealing, the traditional point guard route seems more interesting and effective.
There will be plenty of opportunities for players to get more shots now that VanVleet is no longer on the team. Look for around two or three extra shots every game going to No. 4 now that Barnes is in a more prominent position.
The pace of the offense was slower when VanVleet was the facilitator under Nick Nurse. He would often hold the ball and take quite a long time to initiate the offense and get his shots up.
Now that the Raptors have a new head coach in Darko Rajakovic, and he could be enough to change the offense completely. Rajakovic is coming from a Grizzlies offense that loved to run and attack the basket, all of which should continue in an offense that is being led by Barnes.
Free Agency has already started, and it already affected the Toronto Raptors when VanVleet decided to leave the only team he has ever known and link up with Houston. His departure creates a new opportunity for players like Barnes to be the best version of themselves and make up for his scoring skill.