Sometimes a deal just makes sense for everyone involved.
It would be nice if that were always the case, but at least for Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors, that was the situation Saturday as VanVleet put pen to paper on a deal that will pay him $85-million over the next four years.
This makes sense because both sides get what they want.
VanVleet wanted to be paid commensurate with what he brought to the court and the Raptors, who made no secret of VanVleet returning being their top priority, were both eager and willing to make sure that happened.
There was always the slight chance that another team could come in and blow VanVleet away with ridiculous money that the Raptors just couldn’t match for the restricted free agent, but through the draft and as the deals began to leak, it became more and more apparent that VanVleet would wind up back with the team that initially brought him into the fold as an undrafted free agent.
The winds started to shift towards that when the Detroit Pistons used their first round pick in Wednesday’s draft to pick up point guard Killian Hayes.
A team doesn’t use a seventh overall pick on a guy unless they plan to use him so any noise about the Pistons being in on VanVleet – and we know for a fact that Pistons head coach Dwane Casey is very fond of VanVleet – began to dry up that same night.
Even before draft night the Phoenix Suns, another would-be competitor for VanVleet’s services with the cap space to sign him, took themselves out of the running with the acquisition of future Hall of Famer Chris Paul.
There was also plenty of chatter about the Atlanta Hawks, another team like Detroit that came into the weekend with a ton of cap space potentially having an interest. The Hawks though took a big bite out of their own cap space when they signed Danilo Gallinari in a deal reported Friday night and then early Saturday jumped on Kris Dunn. With Jeff Teague already in the fold and a late Saturday evening addition of Rajon Rondo making the jump from the World Champion Lakers to Atlanta, that market no longer seemed like a viable option for VanVleet.
Finally, the New York Knicks were there with plenty of money to spend and a need at point guard. The Knicks though have been the poster franchise for unstable environments and even with the accepted sensible additions of Leon Rose as president and Tom Thibedeau as head coach, there remains the unpredictable presence of owner Jim Dolan hovering over everything.
We’re not sure what kind of Dolan tax the Knicks would have to cover to get VanVleet signing on the dotted line, but we feel comfortable saying it would be well north of the $21-million-plus a year the Raptors offered. Even then we’re not sure VanVleet would ever put himself in such an unstable position.
VanVleet, who famously and loyally followed his own advice to “Bet on Yourself” reaped the benefits signing the largest total value contract for any undrafted player in NBA history.
In his four years in the NBA so far VanVleet has improved in every statistical category from year to year. Last season when he averaged career bests in scoring, assists, rebounds, steals, three-point field goal percentage. He also finished fourth in the league in steals per game.
On top of that he’s a perfect fit in Nick Nurse’s rotation which demands equal parts defensive tenacity, basketball IQ and an ability to shoot the basketball.
VanVleet marked Saturday’s signing with a tweet simply of three money bags.
Teammate and good friend Kyle Lowry had a little more to say via his own Instagram page.
“Boy! Bet on yourself!,” Lowry posted. “This day has legit come from blood, sweat and broken teeth. This my little brother yo, I’m so happy for him y’all don’t understand man! Wow since day ONE I knew this man was special. He’s now seeing the blessing from the hard work he’s been putting in the time, the effort to become THIS MAN first and basketball player! Love you little Bro! Yeah he’s paying for the Boat days from now on #yesyou @fredvanvleet #themteethreallyshiningnow.”
Upon locking up VanVleet, the Raptors immediately turned their attention to Serge Ibaka, another free agent they had interest in bringing back and possibly Marc Gasol who is also up for grabs, although the talk of him returning to Toronto had been on the quiet side until ESPN reported late Saturday that the Raptors were trying to convince the Spaniard to return.
Ibaka is a huge favourite of head coach Nick Nurse who has asked him to fill various roles for him and always gotten what he needed from the native of the Republic of the Congo.
The Raptors were hoping a one-year deal at a significant cost would be enough to convince Ibaka to re-join them. Ibaka instead chose a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers at $19-million where he will re-join former teammate Kawhi Leonard.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020