The Toronto Raptors are suddenly approaching a crossroads. Losers of three straight to fall a season-worst seven games below .500, the 16-23 Raptors could pivot from fighting toward contention to rebuilding around Scottie Barnes if their widespread struggles continue leading up to the February 9th trade deadline.
One franchise stalwart Toronto on whom Toronto is bound to receive calls from teams seeking upgrades? Fred VanVleet, who recently expressed frustration with his current role while appearing on J.J. Redick’s podcast, partially justifying his season-long struggles by pointing to his reduced playmaking duties compared to a year ago.
The Raptors, though, apparently have no interest in moving VanVleet, hoping to keep the prospective free agent in Toronto beyond this season. Further evidence of that goal is the front office offering him a four-year, $114 million contract extension before 2022-23 tipped off, a deal VanVleet turned down, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.
“Prior to the start of the season, VanVleet turned down a contract extension valued at roughly $114 million, the maximum Toronto could offer at the time, according to a source. He’s eligible to sign an extension up to that value until the end of the campaign, but considering he can make more in free agency and he literally wears the mantra ‘Bet on Yourself’ across his chest, it’s not a surprise that he would prefer to let his current deal expire before negotiating a new one.”
VanVleet has a $22.8 million option on his existing contract for next season, but has long been expected to hit free agency. A “baseline” for his next contract is the four-year, $130 million (with incentives) extension Tyler Herro signed with the Miami Heat last fall, Lewenberg reports.
VanVleet was considered a possible Raptors lifer before the season, taking the on-court and locker room mantle left by Kyle Lowry when he was traded to the Miami Heat before 2021-22. He’s underwhelmed this season, though, shooting 37.7% overall and 32.5% from deep while dealing with nagging back spasms. VanVleet turns 29 next month, and his diminutive stature means any loss of athleticism—due to injury, aging or both—could loom especially large.
Expect VanVleet’s name to be frequently floated as a possible target for contenders before this season’s trade deadline and the start of free agency come July.