This year's NBA free agency period projects to have a bevy of top-notch talents becoming available, and fans and analysts are seemingly expecting several players to change zip codes for the 2023-24 season. Perhaps one of the most buzzed-about names slated to hit the open market this summer is Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet who, after putting forth an impressive seventh season in the association, is looking to receive a lucrative new deal.
Considering he plays the game's most important position at point guard, coupled with his pedigree as an established All-Star, assuming he turns down his final season under his current $85 million contract the expectation is that many backcourt-needy clubs will look to pursue his services.
However, though Fred VanVleet is worthy of being coined as a hot commodity and will likely be courted by a plethora of franchises in free agency, there are three teams, in particular, that should be viewed as ideal options for him to land with.
Best Fred VanVleet destination No. 3) Houston Rockets
If both money and a clear-cut “top dog” status is what Fred VanVleet covets, then he should look no further than the Houston Rockets.
After a tumultuous couple of seasons following the end of the James Harden era, the franchise is now looking to establish some stability in an effort to build toward a brighter future. This offseason, Houston hired former Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka to help mentor and develop the club's impressive young and promising core consisting of Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Alperen Sengun, and Kevin Porter Jr.
However, even with these high-upside talents, the Rockets still lack a true star player and leader on the court.
Fred VanVleet could prove to be that guy to fill these voids.
Considering Houston is projected to have the most cap space at their disposal this offseason, should the point guard already be intrigued by the foundation set in place down in Space City, the organization could easily coerce him into signing by floating a lofty contract offer in his direction.
Best Fred VanVleet destination No. 2) Toronto Raptors
Familiarity and comfortability often play a major role in a player's on-court productivity and impact. For Fred VanVleet, these attributes have already been established throughout his seven-year tenure with the Toronto Raptors and, based on comments dropped during the year, they are factors that will likely be weighed heavily prior to making an ultimate decision this summer.
VanVleet doesn't think this season, as disappointing as it was, will affect his free agency decision this summer: "I think the relationship is in a good place. We've built something special here. My whole NBA life is here, I think that holds some weight… That hasn't changed."
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) April 13, 2023
VanVleet signed on with Toronto as an undrafted free agent after opting to turn down NBA development league contracts and, instead, participate in the 2016 NBA Summer League.
Though he received minimal playing time in year one, during his sophomore season he managed to work his way into a consistent role within the club's rotation. By year three, he was a mainstay contributor who played a major role in the team's first NBA Championship run.
Since the 2019-20 season, Fred VanVleet has served as Toronto's starting point guard and has achieved a tremendous amount of success in such a role. During this time, he's gone on to post impressive per-game averages of 19.3 points, 6.7 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.5 steals on 36.7% shooting from the floor all while claiming his first All-Star nod during the 2021-22 campaign.
Despite the fact that the club endured a rather underwhelming 2022-23 where they finished with a record of 41-41 and were bounced from the Play-In Tournament, reports suggest President Masai Ujiri is “reluctant” to embark on a rebuilding phase, which, in turn, likely means VanVleet has a high chance of remaining in Canada moving forward.
From both a financial and sentimental perspective, this could be viewed as a good thing for the 28-year-old guard.
Best Fred VanVleet destination No. 1) Dallas Mavericks
If Fred VanVleet wishes to better his odds of chasing a second championship, then perhaps his best course of action may actually be to leave Toronto and look for a club in more of a win-now mode.
Should the Dallas Mavericks somehow wind up not re-signing their high-profile trade deadline acquisition Kyrie Irving, who is also a free agent this summer, then perhaps the point guard could be an ideal fit in the Lone Star State.
Throughout his career, VanVleet has already proven to be more than capable of playing and, frankly, excelling while running alongside a ball-dominant star by his side.
From guys like Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard to most recently Pascal Siakam, the veteran is a willing off-ball participant who can create plays for himself and others when in possession of the rock while also possessing the ability to splash home catch-and-shoot jumpers when roaming.
Both of these attributes are what Luka Doncic desperately needs in a running mate.
Though perhaps less efficient from a scoring standpoint, Fred VanVleet could fill the Jalen Brunson role from the club's 2021 Eastern Conference Finals run, and, with championship and deep postseason experience already under his belt, perhaps his mental expertise could be a major bonus for the Mavs.