The 2020 NBA offseason is going to be all about balance for the Toronto Raptors.
Last year brought the winningest season in franchise history and even without a true NBA superstar the Raptors appeared to be within striking distance of an NBA title. In most years that would mean running it back with a few small tweaks to try and get over the hump. But this offseason, the Raptors, president Masai Ujiri, and general manager Bobby Webster have to balance next year’s title aspirations with the possibility of long-term success ahead of a 2021 offseason that could see Giannis Antetokounmpo land in Toronto.
“We have to look at (the) key year which is 2021 and free agency,” Ujiri said during his year-end press conference in September.
If the Raptors are going to sign Antetokounmpo or any of the superstar free agents in 2021, they’re going to have to make sure they have enough space to make a max contract offer next year. That’s where re-signing Fred VanVleet becomes complicated.
Toronto’s 26-year-old starting guard is hitting unrestricted free agency this offseason and is expected to be the top free agent on the market. He’ll reportedly have numerous suiters including the New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, and Phoenix Suns.
There’s an expectation around the NBA that VanVleet will get a contract similar to Malcolm Brogdon’s four-year, $85 contract, according to Stefan Bondy of the Daily News. The Indiana Pacers inked Brogdon to the deal following his age-26 season in which he averaged 15.6 points per game as a starting guard for the Milwaukee Bucks. For comparison, VanVleet is coming a 2019-20 season in which he averaged 17.6 points per game.
A contract that large could present problems for the Raptors in 2021.
“According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, any VanVleet deal around four years and $80 million should keep Toronto in the superstar race next offseason. But things get dicey if the Raptors start competing with bigger offers for one of their most important players,” ESPN’s Tim Bontemps reported.
If Antetokounmpo re-signs with the Bucks this offseason, Toronto will have a much easier time making things work from a cap perspective, but as long as he remains unsigned for 2021-22, the Raptors won’t do anything to inhibit their chances of landing the reigning MVP next offseason.