An undrafted rookie two years ago, Fred VanVleet emerged as one of the Raptors‘ most important players during the 2017/18 season, leading the second unit and playing crunch-time minutes for the club. Now, he’s eligible for restricted free agency, and the Raps sound committed to doing all they can to bring him back.
“He’s a huge priority,” Raptors general manager Bobby Webster said this morning during a TSN 1050 radio appearance (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca). “I don’t want to get fined here, we’re a little limited in what we can say, but we love Freddy and he knows that. He is our highest priority.”
As Webster alludes to, the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits teams from announcing publicly that they’ll match any offer sheet a player signs, though teams are still allowed to make general statements praising the player and expressing a desire to bring him back. In VanVleet’s case, the ceiling on his potential offer sheets are somewhat limited by the Arenas provision, but he’ll still be in line for a significant raise this summer.
A former Wichita State standout, VanVleet averaged 8.6 PPG and 3.2 APG with a .426/.414/.832 shooting line in 76 games (20.0 MPG) for the Raptors last season. While those numbers don’t pop off the page, VanVleet’s impact was greater in the second half of the season, and his on/off-court numbers reflect his value — Toronto had a +12.1 net rating when he was on the court, compared to +4.9 when he sat. The 24-year-old is a finalist for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
While the Raptors will do all they can to re-sign VanVleet, their ballooning team salary will be a concern. The club already has $126MM+ in guaranteed money on its books for 2018/19, so a new deal for VanVleet would require either shedding salary elsewhere or committing to a substantial luxury-tax bill.