- The Toronto Raptors have locked up Fred VanVleet, signing him to a 4-year, $85 million deal
- The Raps have seen their title odds shorten from +2200 to +2000 after announcing that VanVleet will be around for the foreseeable future
- Is Nick Nurse’s team a possible dark horse for the 2021 NBA title? Get the odds for the top six contenders and preview below
After playing an instrumental part in Toronto’s success over the last two seasons, 26-year old guard Fred VanVleet has finally received his much-deserved payday, signing a four-year deal worth $85 million with the Raps.
VanVleet, who was an undrafted senior out of Wichita State back in 2016, was set to meet with several organizations over the next few days after hitting free agency, but Toronto came through and rewarded him with a solid deal before doing so. The Raps made it clear that VanVleet was their number one priority this offseason.
2021 NBA Title Odds
Odds Taken Nov 21 from DraftKings
Raptors Lock-Up Key Piece in VanVleet
Initially, a reserve player with a limited role in his first couple of seasons in Toronto, VanVleet burst onto the scene during their 2019 title run, proving to be an impactful force off the bench. Then last season, VanVleet broke into the starting lineup and put up career numbers across the board. He dropped 17.6 points, dished out 6.6 assists, and grabbed 3.8 rebounds while shooting 39 percent from downtown.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 21, 2020
This is undoubtedly an important signing for the Raps. VanVleet was their third-highest scorer last year and has played a crucial role in Nick Nurse’s backcourt alongside veteran Kyle Lowry. The former Wichita State star has seen his numbers skyrocket each and every season and it definitely seems like the best is still yet to come from VanVleet.
The fact that he’s a solid two-way player makes him even more important to this Raps team. Per ESPN, VanVleet ranked 10th in the NBA among shooting guards in real plus-minus with positive offensive and defensive rating, a statistic to determine a player’s impact on both ends of the court. A gritty, hard-working player defensively, he also was fourth in steals and first in deflections.
In Toronto’s playoff run last season where they lost to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, VanVleet led the Raptors in scoring, putting up 19.6 per night in 11 contests.
The day Lowry decides to retire, it’ll be a smooth transition to VanVleet as their franchise guard, who is eight years younger than the aforementioned.
Should Toronto Be Considered a Contender For Title?
The Raptors were thought to be an organization who could make a run at another title last year after securing the second-best record in the association behind only the Milwaukee Bucks. But come playoff time, their main guys in Lowry and Pascal Siakam didn’t step up as they needed to alongside VanVleet, which ultimately led to Toronto exiting sooner than they would’ve hoped.
However, coming off their best record in franchise history, there will be a sense of positivity that a deep playoff run in 2021 is possible. With their core players still intact with VanVleet, Siakam, Lowry, Norman Powell, and youngster OG Anunoby, anything is possible for this Toronto team.
With Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka free agents, it’ll be important for General Manager Bobby Webster to improve the Raps front court, whether it’s bringing back Ibaka or signing another big. The 31-year Congolese center is coming off his best year from a statistical standpoint, which will attract the interest of many teams around the league.
I believe Toronto is capable of making a run at the title next season. It was a learning curve for them last season without Kawhi and their core will know what changes need to be made. The playoff experience that most of these players have will play an integral part.
They’ve set their future up for the better by handing VanVleet a lucrative deal. And by drafting San Diego State star Malachi Flynn on Wednesday, the Raps have another high ceiling guard to potentially pair alongside VanVleet in the backcourt once Lowry does hang them up.
The future looks bright.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.