NBA Free Agency: Rockets Ink VanVleet For $130 Million Max Deal

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According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Fred VanVleet, a one-time NBA All-Star and member of the 2019 championship-winning Toronto Raptors, has agreed to a three-year, $130 million contract with the Houston Rockets. This deal marks the first maximum contract of the free agency period.

VanVleet Has Morphed Into A Bonafide Star

VanVleet, 29 years old, had an impressive season for the Raptors, averaging 19.3 points with shooting splits of 39% from the field, 34% from beyond the arc, and 90% from the free-throw line. He also contributed 7.2 assists, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game in 36.7 minutes of play over 69 games. Instead of exercising his $22.8 million player option to remain in Toronto for the upcoming season, VanVleet opted for unrestricted free agency for the second time in his seven-year career.

As one of the most accomplished undrafted players in NBA history, VanVleet’s journey began in 2016 when he graduated from Wichita State. He received an invitation to the Toronto Raptors training camp and earned a roster spot, splitting his time between the NBA team and its G League affiliate. VanVleet played a crucial role off the bench during the Raptors’ championship run in 2019, including a standout performance of 22 points in the title-clinching Game 6.

In the 2019-20 season, VanVleet started alongside six-time All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, leading the Raptors to 53 wins and a Game 7 appearance in the Eastern Conference semifinals. With his strong playmaking skills, VanVleet eventually became the primary playmaker, and the team decided to part ways with Lowry in 2021. VanVleet earned his first All-Star selection in 2022, showcasing his abilities on both ends of the court as a tenacious defender on a top-10 defensive team.

The Raptors Have Struggled to Regain Their Plae In The East

However, the Raptors have experienced a decline in recent years. They missed the playoffs twice in the last three seasons and were eliminated in the first round of the 2022 playoffs despite the presence of VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and Scottie Barnes. In response to VanVleet’s departure, the Raptors quickly moved to reinforce their backcourt by agreeing to a two-year, $26 million contract with former Los Angeles Laker Dennis Schröder, as reported by Wojnarowski.

Following the Raptors’ early playoff exit, VanVleet expressed his desire for improvement and stated that he did not want to go through another season like that. He emphasized the value he placed on the relationship with management and coaching, indicating his satisfaction with the Raptors organization. Toronto subsequently fired head coach Nick Nurse and hired Darko Rajakovic, a first-time head coach with previous assistant coaching experience.

Throughout the season, VanVleet’s name was often mentioned in trade rumors, including interest from teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Phoenix Suns. However, Toronto took a gamble on retaining him in free agency.

As VanVleet embarks on his new chapter with the Houston Rockets, the Raptors will look to regroup and rebuild, aiming to return to playoff contention in the coming seasons.