Toronto Raptors, Fred VanVleet Agree To Four-Year, $85 Million Contract

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.

The NBA club agreed to sign VanVleet to a four-year, $85 million deal. The contract was first reported by by Shams Charania of The Athletic on Saturday.

Prior to the free agency period kicking off, VanVleet said: “I’m trying to get paid, man. I don’t have to tell people that I value winning. Look at my story. I won a championship. And now it’s time to cash out.”

VanVleet had reportedly met 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,” Toronto team president 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.”

Getting VanVleet, a valuable piece of Toronto’s backcourt, under contract was the most important signing for Toronto. Now it remains to be seen if they can get big man Serge Ibaka under contract too.

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 second highest was $70.1 million by Wes Matthews.

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, including Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo.

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.

Last season, which ended in the Eastern Conference semifinals with a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics, VanVleet averaged 17.6 points during the regular season, which was the most by an undrafted player since Mike James for Toronto in 2005-06 (20.3), according to ESPN.

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.

VanVleet came to Toronto as 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.

VanVleet is as tough as they come, and there was no better evidence of that in Game 4 of the Finals when he took an elbow to the face, chipping his front tooth and causing blood to run down his cheek.

He left the game briefly for treatment but returned a short time later with seven stitches to show for it.

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, making it impossible for the Raptors to welcome teams to their home court at Scotiabank Arena without a 14-day quarantine.

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