One of this offseason's biggest deals in free agency went to Fred VanVleet, as he signed a three-year, $130 million contract to become the new point guard of the Houston Rockets. This is the largest contract ever given to an undrafted player in NBA history and while a potential return to the Toronto Raptors did look likely at one point, a new chapter of his career is set to begin in Houston.
After winning a championship with the Raptors in 2019 and recently named an All-Star during the 2021-22 season, VanVleet's legacy has already been etched in Toronto's lore. While they may be upset that he left in free agency, nobody can really blame him for securing the contract he did. The seven seasons he spent with the Raptors will forever be cherished by the organization's fans, which is why he is going to get a very warm reception when he makes his return during the 2023-24 season.
On Thursday, the NBA released the official schedule for the upcoming season and VanVleet will officially return to Toronto to face his former team on February 9, 2024.
When VanVleet and the Rockets come to town, the Raptors will definitely have a video tribute ready for their former point guard, as they would not have accomplished all they did through the years without him. Over the last seven years, Toronto went 261-156 with VanVleet on the court, close to a 63 percent win percentage. During this span, the Raptors made the playoffs five times, reaching the Eastern Conference Semifinals in all but one of those seasons.
In a total of 418 games with the Raptors, VanVleet averaged 14.6 points and 5.3 assists per game while shooting 37.3 percent from the floor. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 19.3 points and a career-high 7.2 assists per game.
Now with the Rockets, VanVleet's role may look a little different than it did in Toronto. He will still be the lead guard for his team and be the primary facilitator that brings the ball up the floor, but the 29-year-old will also be responsible for aiding in the development of Houston's young talents.
Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr. and rookie Amen Thompson are all young talents that represent the future of the Rockets. This team obviously wants to win right now and change their recent misfortunes, but continuing to build and setting up future success is still a priority.
The Rockets have not won more than 22 games since the start of the 2020-21 season and they will be looking to prove that they can compete with the other 29 teams in the league with VanVleet headlining their roster.
Toronto and Houston met two times during the 2022-23 season with the Raptors winning both meetings. VanVleet was the leading scorer with 32 points in both games a season ago.