- Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet is one of the top NBA free agents this offseason
- Several teams should have cap space to pursue VanVleet, but salary cap uncertainty is a major factor
- Favored to stay in Toronto, should you bet VanVleet to re-sign with the Raps?
The 2020 NBA free agent class is unspectacular. Fred VanVleet is one of the leading names available this off-season, and could be the best player on the market (if Anthony Davis re-signs with the Los Angeles Lakers).
Per the latest odds, the Toronto Raptors are the heavy favorites to retain the 26-year-old point guard. It’s +170 for VanVleet to be playing for any other team in 2020-21. The 2019-20 season was VanVleet’s first as a full-time starter, which is one factor that could make his free agency very interesting.
The table below has the odds for VanVleet’s big pay day.
Odds on Fred VanVleet’s NBA Team In 2020-21 Season
|Any Other Team||+170|
Odds taken September 15th
There are plenty of potential suitors for VanVleet. A lot of bad teams have cap space this offseason, and could be lured in by a prime point guard who shoots the three at just under 40%.
The New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons should both have the room to throw a max or near-max at VanVleet. The Chicago Bulls would need to move some salary (Spotrac projects just under $9 million cap space), but could show interest if they don’t see Coby White as a point guard long-term.
Detroit is embarking on a deep rebuild, and are set to be one of the worst teams in the league. Acquiring VanVleet would make them better in the short-term, but he’s unlikely to make them a playoff team barring Blake Griffin returning to his 2018-19 form.
VanVleet probably isn’t the man to be the lead guard on their next good team. The Pistons have a long way to go, and potentially overpaying VanVleet could prove to be a mistake.
Fred VanVleet on free agency: “I’m a free agent, I think about it everyday…. We’ll wait and see how free agency plans out. At the end of the day I’m not writing the check myself. I feel good about the year that I had. I wish it ended with a championship.” pic.twitter.com/LTEYxy6HBP
— Clevis Murray (@ClevisMurray) September 12, 2020
New York is the most likely team here. The Bulls should try a new coach before making a major roster changes. VanVleet would make them better, but the front office will probably favor giving White and Zach LaVine a season in the backcourt together before bringing in another ball-handler.
Raptors and Financial Uncertainty
No one knows when fans will be allowed back in arenas. The salary cap is yet to be set for 2020-21, and the same goes for the luxury tax (which could be removed altogether). There is uncertainty over revenue, and uncertainty over the amount teams can spend.
It is not a straight forward offseason, but the Toronto Raptors have more flexibility than most with Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka’s contracts coming off the books (good for almost $50 million).
Knicks have Raptors guard, Fred Van Vleet on their radar during free agency & is in position to command a significant raise on his current $9.35M deal: https://t.co/fkVVHQe4Um
In his first full season as a starter, Van Vleet averaged 17.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists. pic.twitter.com/5ogZ6YK9pY
— 👑📍Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson, M.A. (@ScoopB) September 12, 2020
Toronto is going to have money to spend. They are projected for over $26 million in cap space (per Spotrac) even with Pascal Siakam’s extension kicking in. Letting Gasol and Ibaka walk leaves a lot of frontcourt minutes to fill, however.
The Raps have specialized in finding players from nowhere, but they would become dependent on finding serviceable center minutes with little money to spend if they re-sign VanVleet to a deal in the $20 million per year range.
It’s not impossible, nor is it unreasonable for Toronto to spend big on VanVleet. Nick Nurse could give Siakam some minutes at the five with Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby, VanVleet and Norman Powell. There are cheap centers who can do a job – maybe they could pick up Meyers Leonard or Aron Baynes.
Fred VanVleet wanted to be the hero
now this might be his last shot as a Raptor pic.twitter.com/dEiG1b0uz6
— Slightly Biased (@BiasedSlightly) September 12, 2020
The most significant thing will be ownership’s willingness to spend. They have Bird rights on Gasol, Ibaka and VanVleet. If the two veteran bigs take one-year deals, would ownership be willing to pay an oversized payroll for a season and potentially the luxury tax?
Knicks Factor Keeps It Interesting
The Knicks need a point guard. The trade rumors for Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook have already begun.
VanVleet is a good fit for what they need – a guy who can initiate offense and play off-ball, creating space for RJ Barrett. New York is trying to be at least semi-competitive right away with Tom Thibodeau in charge. They will not settle for another season like the last.
If any team is to chuck a huge offer at VanVleet, it’s going to come from Madison Square Garden. Even with a new-look front office, the Knicks will be keen to use up that cap space and bring in a high-quality starter.
There are a lot of free agents who can make the Knicks better, but not many who can play big minutes at guard, shoot the ball well and ease the burden on Barrett. VanVleet makes sense for them.
This comes down to how desperate Toronto are to keep VanVleet. Big contracts are often handed to guys after they’ve won rings, and VanVleet clearly works well on this Toronto roster. With eyes on the 2021 free agency class, though, the Raps might be reluctant to give VanVleet the max.
There’s no doubt he’ll choose to stay in Toronto if they offer the same money as another team, but with this likely his only big contract, he could end up playing elsewhere if the Raptors do not match an offer from New York.
Pick: Any Other Team (+170)