Fred VanVleet has gone from a second-round pick to the most sought-after free agent on the market in a span of four years. It's been a remarkable journey for the former Wichita State guard, one that saw him elevate his play on the national stage and play a huge role in helping the Toronto Raptors capture the franchise's first NBA championship.
Now, the man wants to get paid. He's an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Raptors probably would very much like to keep him, and have his Bird Rights, meaning they can go over the cap to bring him back if need be. But this year's crop of free agents is extremely thin behind VanVleet, and he'll be the hottest name on the market. Toronto will have competition. On VanVleet's end, he just wants his money, as he told JJ Reddick on his eponymous podcast
""I've never been shy about it. I've never talked about it publicly, but I'll share it with you guys. I'm trying to get paid, man. I'm not shy about that. I don't have to tell people that I value winning. Look at my story, do your research. I've never been on a losing team in my entire life. That's what I'm about. That's just what it is. I won a championship, and now it's time to cash out on 26 [years old]... At the end of the day, it's not purely numbers, but the numbers do play a big part, and I just want to feel my value reciprocated from the other end." "
This is not really good news if you're a Raptors fan. As previously noted, Toronto has the ability to, essentially, match any offer VanVleet gets if he's willing to give them a chance to do so. But Masai Ujiri is still in charge, and he's the same man who traded franchise cornerstone and fan-favorite DeMar DeRozan without blinking. VanVleet is an upper-echelon starting point guard in the NBA, but he is undersized and not quite enough of an offensive force to carry a team. In short, he's a great role player and/or second star, but he isn't winning a title on his own.
Thus, Ujiri will be hesitant to pony up if VanVleet truly does want to get paid and successfully creates a bidding war for his services on the open market. It feels more likely that VanVleet can earn upwards of $20 million a year from a team like the Knicks or Pistons, who have both the cash and the need to acquire him. Which, at this point, seems inevitable. The draft isn't strong and nobody else is in VanVleet's neighborhood in terms of free agency.
VanVleet is going to get his wish. Whether it's from Toronto or an unknown suitor remains to be seen. But if the man wants to get paid, he's going to get paid.