The Toronto Raptors are going to head into the 2023-24 season without one of their more consistent offensive performers, as Fred VanVleet decided to skip town and join a young Houston Rockets team led by disgraced former Celtics coach Ime Udoka.
Fans shouldn’t fault VanVleet for one second after he left the Raptors, as he was given a three-year max contract that paid him above market value to secure his services. Houston thought that he could be the one who could take them from a laughingstock to a serious playoff contender.
While no one doubts the idea that VanVleet will positively impact a moribund franchise in need of direction, paying him like a max player and expecting him to be a wholly transformative force could come back to bite Houston in the butt. Could Toronto’s inability to sign him end up benefitting them in the long run?
Eric Koreen of The Athletic, in a discussion with Rockets writer Kelly Iko, hinted that VanVleet’s production likely won’t match up to the gigantic contract that he received in the offseason. Losing a veteran leader with an All-Star pedigree will hurt the Raptors, but Houston may not be adding the difference-maker they think they are.
Will former Toronto Raptors PG Fred VanVleet lead the Rockets?
Houston will soon realize that VanVleet will likely shoot below or just above 40% from the field while holding the ball, slowing the offense down, and taking some ill-advised shots in the clutch. While his defense is still solid, will a player his size getting older still be as effective in that area?
VanVleet is now one of the 20 most expensive players in the league despite production that even the biggest Wichita State supporter would tell you is inadequate for such a hefty salary. The Rockets needed to spend that cap space, and VanVleet is one of the few guys out there who could change the shape of the rotation.
VanVleet is going to be the most expensive Rockets player, but he will also need to make sure that Jalen Green and Jabari Smith evolve into star players while ensuring that Alperen Sengun gets his diet of shots and Dillon Brooks lives up to his deal. He had issues sharing the wealth last year in Toronto; could he change things in Houston?
VanVleet’s value to the Rockets might be best seen off the court, as he will bring a degree of leadership and professionalism the Rockets lacked in glaring fashion during the Stephen Silas era. In terms of efficiency, however, fans might be disappointed.
Perhaps by his return in February, fans will see if Toronto made the right move.