Fred VanVleet said he wanted to get paid what he was worth on the open market, and the Toronto Raptors showed him the money on Day 2 of free agency in the NBA.
The NBA club agreed to pay VanVleet a four-year, $85 million deal. The contract was first reported by by Shams Charania of The Athletic on Saturday.
The Raptors was reportedly meeting with the Raptors and one or two other teams on Saturday in Chicago, near his hometown of Rockford, Ill.
“He always wanted to come back,” Masai Ujiri told The Athletic’s David Aldridge just before going into another meeting. “We love Fred. He loves us. When free agency comes, other teams go after good players. We all do the same thing.”
VanVleet, a valuable piece of Toronto’s backcourt, was the most important signing in free agency and his signing was the club’s top priority. The other important Toronto free agent to get under contract is center Serge Ibaka.
As reported by Charania, the contract includes a player option in the fourth year. The deal starts at $21.25 million next season, decreases by 8% in 2021-22, then bumps again, according to Sportsnet’s Michael Grange.
VanVleet’s deal is the richest total value contract of any undrafted player in NBA history, ESPN reported.
The structure is designed to help the Raptors maintain some cap space heading into the all-important 2021 off-season, when an elite free-agent class is expected to hit the open market.
In the 2019-20 season, VanVleet posted career-best averages in points (17.6), assists (6.6) and rebounds (3.8) as a starter for the first time. VanVleet came to the Raptors in July, 2016, signing as an undrafted free agent.
VanVleet, an undersized guard, made an immediate impact when he came, signing with Toronto for the summer league. With his shooting skills and defensive prowess, he starred with Toronto’s G League affiliate Raptors 905.
In 2019, VanVleet was instrumental, along with backcourt veteran Kyle Lowry and the brilliant forward Kawhi Leonard, in bringing an NBA championship to Canada.
VanVleet averaged 14.9 points on 49% shooting over Toronto’s final eight playoff games in 2019.
VanVleet was a lightly regarded guard out of Wichita State. But people got to see a glimpse of what he could become in 2019, especially in the playoffs when he finished second behind Leonard in NBA Finals MVP voting.
In the Finals, VanVleet was asked to play an important defensive role against Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors when the Raptors employed a box-and-one-defense. And in the series-clinching Game 6, VanVleet responded with 22 points with five, three-pointers off the bench.
The signing of VanVleet was the second big news announcement to hit Toronto in two days. But the first bit of news was not as good.
It was announced on Friday that the Raptors will start the season playing home games in Tampa because of the border restrictions set by the Canadian government in an effort to contain the coronavirus.