Raptors Cage

Fred VanVleet’s incredible return reminds Raptors of his daunting free agency

In the summer of 2018, Fred VanVleet re-upped with the Raptors on a 2-year deal for $18 million and cemented his status as a Raptors legend, serving as a pivotal player in the late stages of last season’s championship run. As he has maintained, in a perfect world, VanVleet would re-sign with the Raptors this summer and continue his incredible career arch, but the NBA is far from perfect.

Though he struggled in Atlanta yesterday, VanVleet scored 29 points on an incredible 7-of-8 from beyond the three-point line, providing a much-needed spark-plug to the Raptors offense. Fred has been vital to the 29-14 Raptors this year, finding himself near the top of the NBA leaderboard at 35.8 MPG while contributing 18.4 PPG, 6.7 APG and a nearly 39% clip from 3 in that time. Unfortunately, you don’t have to be Daryl Morey to understand that Fred’s terrific play, while certain to be important in the playoffs, will drive up his price in the summer to a number steeper than potentially once expected.

538’s WAR tool projects a player’s five-year value. Fred’s five year total on the site is $66.7M, but given his extremely rare trait of playoff experience and success mixed with this year’s proof of being able to carry a heavy load, Fred’s contract will certainly exceed that $13M average value and perhaps exceed $20M a year on a longer-term contract. VanVleet is no longer the undrafted bargain that the Raptors have been able to hold onto at a far lower cost than his presented value. This summer, he’ll be paid, and deservedly so.

The Raptors aren’t blowing everything up just yet, at least for another year. They re-upped with Kyle Lowry for another year and locked up Pascal Siakam, certainly showing that they intend to contend for the East once again after this season. However, the other issue the team will run into in negotiations with VanVleet is the lack of depth in this year’s free agency class. Fred is arguably the best point guard in the entire class, depending on if you believe he is more or less valuable than Goran Dragic. CBSSports has him ranked 15th, however with many of the players above him likely unattainable due to being simply too good (See: Anthony Davis), RFAs (See: Brandon Ingram), or with massive player options (See: Andre Drummond, Gordon Hayward, many more), Fred isn’t only one of the best PGs out there, he’s one of the best options, period. All in all, the market for Fred is likely to have many suitors, and it’s a price the Raptors simply may not be able to afford to pay.

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