Mr. Bet on Yourself has secured his bag. After plenty of speculation over whether Fred VanVleet might leave Toronto for a more tempting offer financially, the most likely scenario played out as the Raptors offered him the best of both worlds.
With a four-year contract worth $85 million (final year being a player option), VanVleet has a strong financial commitment to go along with the stability of a Raptors organization that has tasted championship success. After a potential suitor in the Phoenix Suns dropped out of the mix with their acquisition of Chris Paul, what type of offer the New York Knicks put on the table was considered the biggest potential obstacle. VanVleet is believed to have met with the Raptors and a couple other suitors in Chicago, close to his hometown Rockford, Illinois.
VanVleet has thoroughly earned this contract. After going undrafted in 2016, VanVleet was given the opportunity to prove himself by the Raptors in summer league and hasn’t looked back. He couldn’t earn much playing time with the big boys during the 2016-17 season but won a G League championship alongside Pascal Siakam with the Raptors 905. In his second season, he became a crucial member of the Bench Mob and his injury in the final game of the regular season hurt the Raptors as they fell well short of expectations getting swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round after winning 59 games and earning the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
In the championship season, VanVleet proved invaluable in Toronto’s biggest games (shoutout Fred Jr.), shooting 30-for-57 from three-point range over the final nine games and made life as difficult as humanly possible for Steph Curry. He rode that momentum into this past season, where the departures of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard opened up more opportunities on offence and VanVleet took full advantage averaging career-highs in points (17.6), assists (6.6), and three-point percentage (39%). Defensively, VanVleet vanquished doubts that a smaller backcourt of him and Kyle Lowry couldn’t work by more than holding his own, leading the entire league in deflections per game (4.2) and also collecting a career-high 1.9 steals per game.
Going forward, the Raptors have two cornerstones of their franchise signed to long-term deals. Siakam signed a four-year deal with $137 million last season, and the battles the duo have been through together and the chemistry they share can’t be understated. With OG Anunoby under team control for the foreseeable future and head coach Nick Nurse having re-signed with the Raptors a couple months ago, Toronto can expect to be very competitive for years to come.