While there’s plenty for the Toronto Raptors management to mull over in the offseason, one of those big questions is what to do about Fred VanVleet?
VanVleet is a polarizing player in the Raptors’ fanbase and what his future with the team will be, is up for debate.
Team president Masai Ujiri has not (so far) indicated any major changes to the team line-up after firing Head Coach Nick Nurse.
However, he will have to contend with VanVleet’s intentions because that 29-year-old Guard has an option.
VanVleet has a Player Option heading into the summer.
When he signed his $85M four-year contract with the Raptors, he included a Player Option clause which allowed him to do one of two things.
He can either (1) OPT IN to his option to play the last year of his contract or (2) OPT OUT and decline his option, thus becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) a year earlier.
There’s no signal that Raptors want him to force him out but is VanVleet worth keeping?
As we said before, VanVleet’s performance as a player with Raptors, has drawn criticism from the fans.
Take this Regular season for example and you’ll see that his shooting and scoring have been inconsistent.
Field Goals – VanVleet scored only 39.3% of his Field Goals compared with the 2021/22 season where he had 40.3%.
Three-pointers – VanVleet scored only 34.2% of his Three-pointers compared with the 2021/22 season where he had 37.7%.
Interestingly, his shooting performance percentages were better in the 2017/18 Regular season where he picked up a Field Goal percentage of 42.6% and Three-pointer percentage of 41.4% respectively.
Is he worth it?
While fans will lambast his scoring abilities, including this season, perhaps that’s not where VanVleet’s worth truly lies.
In fact, as a Point Guard he’s shown a level of agency to make quick decisions on court and been a key cog in defence rather than dominating the ball.
So, his charm as a player is that he doesn’t get in the way of the big stars but he’s reliable and dependable in defence.
Delving a little into the advanced statistics and you see that at VanVleet is currently ranked 10th among Point Guards in 2023.
He currently sits ahead of Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks) and just behind Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies) with an estimated Plus-Minus of +3.7.
Say VanVleet decides to OPT IN to his Player Option and play the final season of his contract, will he get the juicy extension deal that he and the Raptors had discussed earlier this year?
According to reports at the beginning of 2023, VanVleet had been offered a contract extension of another four years, worth $114M. That’s $28.5M per season from 2024 onwards, roughly $6M more than his current deal.
The offer was not ‘rejected’ and instead both parties had shelved it pending a later decision. There had been a ‘mutual decision to wait, with no deadline discussed,’ the report had quoted.
Say VanVleet decides to OPT OUT and pursue his Unrestricted Free Agency (which he has until June 15 to decide), how does that affect Raptors?
Should VanVleet walk the team still has cap holds on Gary Trent Jr and Jakob Poeltl which still affect the team’s cap space.
Not only that, will Raptors find someone as good as him and for as little as $12M (the amount that gets freed up)?
A range of possible Free Agents like Bruce Brown or Dennis Schroder could be options but they won’t be as good as VanVleet or available on that slim budget.
Sign and Trade?
It’s certainly an option to sign and trade with another team, even if there are a lot of mechanics involved.
Los Angeles Lakers – Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times mentioned him in reference to a rumour that the Los Angeles Lakers were interested but it could mean they have to sacrifice a draft pick.
Philadelphia 76ers – The scenarios of this happening are slim and it could involve a three-way deal with the Houston Rockets, Bryan Toporek at the Liberty Ballers reports. It would mean a reuniting with Nick Nurse though.
Houston Rockets – Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports has reported that the Rockets are also targeting VanVleet directly. Raptors may get very little back from the deal, maybe a trade exception, if that.
Complicating this S & T process is also if VanVleet gets 20% increase on his salary. He’d face base year compensation (BYC) rules. Let’s not get started on that calculus.
Another possible landing spot for VanVleet is Orlando Magic
It has a core of young players who have the potential to make an impact in the next few years on the Eastern Conference. VanVleet could have a positive impact there.
Likewise, he’ll have the likes of Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner to make up for in the areas that he lacks.
Should they just keep him?
Yes – realistically speaking, keeping VanVleet saves on the problems of Sign and Trade and finding a suitable replacement. Letting him go could be dangerous for Raptors’ performance next season.
No – down the line, he’s going to problems for the team when the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement ratches down harder on teams. How will Raptors manage to keep on top of his and other players’ salaries? There’s time to manage this.