Having thrived as the Raptors‘ starting point guard without Kyle Lowry in the lineup for the team’s last 11 contests, Fred VanVleet may be raising the value of his next contract with each game, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca. During that Lowry-less stretch, Toronto has a 9-2 record and VanVleet has averaged 21.2 PPG, 7.5 APG, and 2.4 SPG with a .402 3PT%.
VanVleet will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and Lewenberg speculates that Malcolm Brogdon‘s four-year, $85MM deal from this past offseason could end up being the baseline for the Raptors’ point guard if he keeps up his current pace.
In an appearance on Brian Windhorst’s ESPN podcast (hat tip to RealGM), Bobby Marks said he heard from one team last week that believes VanVleet may even command between $25-30MM next summer, with a handful of rebuilding clubs among the candidates to make a run at the Raptors’ up-and-coming star using cap space. “I almost fell off my chair when they told me that,” Marks admitted.
When I ranked 2020’s free agents last month, I placed VanVleet all the way up at No. 7 and questioned whether that was too high. The way his season is going, he may rank even higher the next time we revisit that list.
Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:
- Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been banged up all year, a trend that continued on Sunday when he took a shot to his abdomen while drawing an offensive foul. Smart, who missed the rest of the game, has been reluctant to sit out at all this season, but admitted to Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald that he may not be able to return right away from his latest injury, which he believes is an oblique issue. A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston explored what it would mean for the C’s if their hard-nosed guard misses some time.
- Otto Porter is the Bulls‘ highest-paid player and the team has badly missed his experience on both ends of the floor during his absence with a foot injury, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “He settles us down a bit, maybe at times we need that,” head coach Jim Boylen said of the veteran forward. “He makes timely shots. He’s one of our better shooters. And he has positional size, which is a huge part of that big wing position. We miss those things.”
- Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo has been better this year than he was last year when he won the MVP, Alex Boeder of NBA.com contends. Boeder identifies an improved three-point shot and a lower turnover rate as evidence of the Greek Freak’s leap.
Chris Crouse contributed to this post.