In the history of the NBA, we have never been so close to the potential beginning of free agency without actually knowing it. Then again, in all of the NBA’s existence, we have never had to deal with a four month long break in the middle of the season, a bubble in Disney World, and a global pandemic.
Just because teams don’t have a clear idea yet of when they’ll be able to officially ink new players to contracts, does not mean that they haven’t been doing their homework. In fact, they may have been going above and beyond league expectations – but this isn’t exactly the type of homework you want to be doing that for.
According to Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports, many free agents may have already come to terms with teams on new contracts, and they are just waiting for free agency to formally begin before finalizing those deals. Scandalous, eh?
If we’re being honest though, circumventing the system has been routine for a while now. That’s been made even easier with everything online nowadays. There’s no more tracking players’ airplanes, or their black SUV’s going down the 401 highway this offseason. Team executives and free agents are left to discuss freely on their Zoom calls.
Well… until next summer at least when Giannis Antetokounmpo hits the Danforth and Raptors fans go full-on CIA mode again. For this autumn though, it’s unlikely that any of the Raptors free agent targets would have attracted that level of attention anyways.
Anthony Davis aside – because he’s virtually a lock to re-up with the Lakers – the best free agent on the market may be Toronto’s own Fred VanVleet. While there will certainly be external competition for the four-year guard from Illinois, oddsmakers are still predicting that he stays North of the border.
In order to retain maximum cap space for next season, Toronto will need to keep Fred VanVleet’s contract under $20M – assuming that they do not trade Norman Powell or Pascal Siakam, and do guarantee Matt Thomas’ and Dewan Hernandez’s contracts. This should be around the ballpark that he’s expected to receive on the open market. Maybe a worse team such as the Phoenix Suns, the New York Knicks, or the Detroit Pistons would pay him a premium of a couple million bucks to lose more games than he wins, but Mr. Bet On Yourself seems to place some value on making it to The Playoffs as well.
Though Freddy certainly has his shortcomings which Raptors fans know very well – mostly tied to his tendency to eat up the shot clock with the ball in his hands, or his lack of height which impedes his ability to shoot efficiently inside the arc – he is an imperative piece for the Raptors to keep if they want to keep winning. He is not the type of star player who puts your team “over the top”, as they say, but he is certainly worth about six or seven regular season wins to the Raptors who want to remain competitive in the near future. Especially with Kyle Lowry aging – as much as it hurts to admit – Freddy should be ready to fill that starting point guard role when Lowry decides that his basketball playing days are over.
This week, Freddy’s value to the team has been made even greater. Unfortunately, some awful events transpired in New York City surrounding Raptors rookie Terence Davis Jr. The 23-year-old was charged on seven counts, including assault in the third degree, criminal mischief in the fourth degree, aggravated harassment in the second degree, and endangering the welfare of a child. Davis was arrested by police, and has his court hearing has been set for December 11th, 2020. Basketball implications are the least of priorities surrounding this trial, however they are still existent.
The Toronto Raptors are an organization that prides themselves on bringing in high character people, and high character players. One incident like this, if found guilty, would likely find Davis in another team’s jersey – if in any at all – for next season. The team, and the league would have no option but to condemn Davis’ inexcusable actions. In a league as progressive as the NBA, somebody like that has no place.
If Davis is ultimately removed from the Raptors locker room, Toronto would face reduced guard depth, and their need to keep VanVleet would be exacerbated. It remains unclear if Freddy wants to be a Raptor as badly as the Raptors want him though. Raptors President Masai Ujiri made it clear that re-signing Fred VanVleet is a “priority” this offseason. VanVleet on the other hand, has been pretty quiet about his business decisions… until this week when he sent out the cryptic tweet below.
— Fred VanVleet (@FredVanVleet) October 29, 2020
As a disclaimer, analyzing this tweet is probably a little bit overdramatic, but we’re going to do it anyways.
In the classic meaning of the words “double up” it would typically mean that one person is playing two roles. For example, a doctor might double up as a musician, or a teacher might double up as a coach. Might Freddy be trying to let us know that he has picked up another hobby, and is merely doubling up as… say… a clothing designer on top of being a basketball player?
On the other hand – the optimistic hand, if you will – VanVleet might be trying to let us know that he is doubling up with the Raptors, and signing a new contract with them. He’s only signed two contracts in his NBA career – the first one after being an undrafted free agent in 2016, and then his second in 2018 – a two-year deal worth $18M – which brings us to now. By that logic, this summer, he would technically be tripling up by re-signing in Toronto… nobody tell him that his counting is off, we need to keep him as happy as possible.
Still at just 26 years old, VanVleet will probably go down as one of the best undrafted NBA players ever. If he chooses to stay in Toronto for his entire career, he’ll likely go down as one of the best Raptors ever as well.