The Toronto Raptors could be on the verge of blowing up their current roster prior to the Feb. 9 trade deadline, and if that decision is ultimately made by the team’s front office, it seems like Fred VanVleet could be on his way to a new home.
VanVleet is a beloved member of the Raptors and was a key contributor during Toronto’s 2019 championship run. However, time may be running out on the partnership.
One of the prime reasons why may be contract negotiations. VanVleet can hit free agency this offseason if he declines his player option for the 2023-24 campaign.
“We’ve got the locker room leader, Fred VanVleet, coming up on a player option, which by all accounts, from anyone you talk to around the league, is expected to decline that player option and enter unrestricted free agency,” Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reported.
“Regarding VanVleet’s extension talks before the season, I was told that the four-year, $114 million extension offer was never going to be high enough since VanVleet, who’s one of the top free agents entering the market this summer, considered himself somewhere in the $30-35 million average annual range, which is similar to Jrue Holiday’s average annual salary (this season), for example.
“There seemed to certainly be an understanding with Toronto and Fred at the time that it was just a logistical thing. The possibility of him being in Toronto long-term was certainly in play.”
If the Raptors know that VanVleet is going to command a contract that they are not willing to pay, the team might feel inclined to try to trade him prior to Feb. 9 to ensure that they do not lose him for no return in free agency.
VanVleet is one of several current Raptors players to have been recently mentioned in potential trades.
If the Raptors do decide to blow up their current roster, the expectation is that they will collect future draft picks and young players to build around youngster Scottie Barnes. It would be a big decision for the franchise to make, but it is one that has worked for many other teams across the league in recent years.
As for VanVleet, he’s having a bit of a down year. He’s a great player to be sure, but $35 million per season is a lot for a player that is currently averaging under 20 points per game on 39.5 percent shooting from the field and 34.1 percent shooting from deep.
The Raptors are 23-29 this season, which has them in position to miss the postseason. They’re in 12th place in the Eastern Conference.