While watching Fred Van Vleet drop 34 points on Minnesota opening night (and doing it on just 18 shots with seven assists), if you thought you saw little dollar signs trailing around behind him, you’re not going crazy.
Van Vleet is a free agent next summer, one of the top players on the market in what will be a down free agent year. Have a good season, more games like that one Tuesday, and his price goes up. Which is a long-winded way of saying he is going to get PAID this July. Probably overpaid.
That doesn’t automatically mean Van Vleet is bolting Toronto. He would prefer to stay, so long as the money is right, as he told Sportsnet Canada.
“I’ve been here. This is the team that gave me my chance, I think we understand that. I’m not gonna speak too much on free agency this year just ’cause it’s a business and I have to do what’s best for me and my family,” VanVleet said during an appearance on Tim and Sid on Wednesday.
“But, I mean, I’ve been on record about how I feel about this place. This organization knows how I feel about this place. So in a perfect world, we know what would happen.”
Van Vleet, a quality player at a highly valued position around the NBA, is likely going to make more than $20 million a year average over the course of his new contract. Last summer, Indiana paid Malcolm Brogdon four-years, $85 million, if Van Vleet has a strong season then that number may be the benchmark.
Would Toronto want to pay that?
The real question is, what is Toronto’s long-term plan? They locked up Pascal Siakam, but do they plan to keep Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka past next summer? If the team wants to remain a high playoff seed for years to come, locking up Van Vleet makes sense. If the plan is to start trading those guys (Gasol and Ibaka at this trade deadline, Lowry next summer) and start rebuilding with youth around Siakam, then paying Van Vleet that much doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Whatever happens, Van Vleet is going to get his next summer. He’d like it to be from Toronto, but one way or another he gets paid.