The Toronto Raptors will face off against Fred VanVleet for the first time since one of the greatest players in franchise history brought an end to his Toronto tenure and joined the Houston Rockets on a three-year contract worth $128 million. The departure seems to have been mutually beneficial.
While VanVleet's shooting percentages are right around 40% once again, and his scoring is down when compared to last season, his assists per game are up to 8.4 per game, which ranks sixth in the NBA. The veteran leadership he brings to the table has often been cited as a main reason for Ime Udoka's quick turnaround in Houston.
The Raptors were rightly ripped for not getting a player or pick in return for Fred via a trade, but Masai Ujiri's pivot to a more earnest rebuild should be more than enough to justify letting VanVleet walk out the door. The timelines simply did not match up for a VanVleet return.
The Raptors might be in for some fairly lean seasons in the next campaign or two, but they still made the right decision in letting VanVleet walk away. Toronto would be handicapping themselves if they threw down the same gigantic contract that VanVleet received from Houston.
3 reasons the Toronto Raptors were right not to sign Fred VanVleet
1. Too Expensive
VanVleet's contract was not only expensive, it was way above market for a player who is pushing 30 years old, has had some injury problems, and is unlikely to suddenly find the fountain of youth in the final two seasons of his deal. Imagine what an albatross contract he would be on Toronto's books.
With Barnes needing a contract extension that will eventually come with a few more seasons of strong play, adding long-term deals for RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley into the mix alongside VanVleet would make Toronto totally inflexible. Signing quality role players would have been almost impossible.
The Toronto Raptors saved money by letting Fred VanVleet go
The Raptors may never be a free agent destination, but they were not going to win much of anything by locking themselves in a core that would be aging, expensive, and injury-prone all at once. A trade would have been better, but the Raptors managed to make the best out of what they had afterward.
Houston had more cap space than anyone in the league, and VanVleet exceeding $43 million per season would not have been crazy, but it's hard to look at his numbers and justify that expensive price tag. VanVleet got his money in Texas, but Toronto should not have caved to those demands.