It’s been a few years since the Raptors have had a free agent hit the market who has attracted as much attention and been the subject of such speculation as Fred VanVleet in the last few weeks.
The last would have been Kawhi Leonard in the aftermath of the team’s 2019 NBA championship, and those circumstances were different. Leonard was a one-year pickup who was widely expected to leave, practically from the moment he arrived.
This time, it’s longest serving member of the team, its leader on the court and its conscious off it who is being sought after by a handful of teams, according to sources and multiple reports.
The 29-year-old opted out of the final year of a contract that would have paid him $22.8 (U.S.) million in 2023-24, a logical move in search of a far more lucrative, long-term deal that would start at least at $30 million annually.
The Raptors have hopes they can re-sign the accomplished point guard; he’s a key veteran who can help younger teammates navigate NBA seasons.
And while there are those who wonder about his effectiveness, that seems to be fans and observers looking to validate their opinions. On a team that turned out to be less than the sum of its parts and stumbled to a 41-41 record that landed it in the draft lottery, VanVleet still put up numbers consistent with all of his career benchmarks.
It’s why he’ll be attractive to many teams when the free agent negotiating period begins Friday at 6 p.m. Here are five:
The Rockets, armed with about $60 million in cap space, could throw a deal starting at $40 million on the table that would unquestionably get VanVleet’s attention. But does he want, at this point in his career, to be one of a very few adults in the room on a team that hasn’t won more than 22 games a season for three years?
Are the Spurs ready to take the big swing right now or would they like the Victor Wembanyama era to unfold a bit first? They have the cap space to satisfy VanVleet’s financial desires but they also have in-house options to at least start the next giant steps behind this year’s No. 1 draft pick
How well would VanVleet look rounding out a roster built around LeBron James and Anthony Davis in a short-term pursuit of a championship? He’d look really good. Any move to L. A. would have to be a sign-and-trade and it’s hard to imagine the Raptors wanting to pay DeAngelo Russell. Now, if the Lakers were to throw Austin Reaves in there …
This seemed like an intriguing possibility until Orlando started stockpiling point guards — the newly drafted Anthony Black, Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony. None of them are VanVleet but it’s not like the young Magic are one piece away from contention.
This one might seem like a stretch since the basketball world fully expects the Mavericks to bring back Kyrie Irving to pair with Luka Doncic. But if Dallas seeks a drama-free existence, wouldn’t they consider VanVleet?
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