Masai Ujiri says re-signing Fred VanVleet is a ‘big-time priority’
Fred VanVleet has developed into a quality point guard, someone who can play a role on elite teams — he has a ring to prove it. This season, in a contract year, VanVleet stepped up and averaged 17.6 points per game and was efficient doing so, taking 83% of his shots either within four feet of the basket or from three, where he shot 39% (stats via Cleaning the Glass).
A lot of teams could use a point guard like VanVleet.
He happens to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
While other teams will come calling, Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri said Thursday in a press conference that re-signing VanVleet is a top priority for the team this offseason. Via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:
Ujiri: "Fred is a priority, a big-time priority"— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) September 17, 2020
He also said the bigs (Ibaka and Gasol) are a priority. Earlier he acknowledged the challenge of balancing bringing those guys back with maintaining long-term flexibility (even mentioned the important summer of 2021).
Toronto has a little room under the cap, as much as $29 million even if the cap stays flat, but Ujiri and company also have some tough decisions to make about how to — or if to — spend that money. Because of Ujiri and the core of this team, and the fact Giannis Antetokounmpo is an international player, Toronto feels it has a real shot at him if the Greek Freak decides to test the free-agent waters in 2021.
There are other, short term challenges. As he said above, Ujiri wants to re-sign Fred VanVleet, but at what price? Both bigs, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are free agents (and there is some buzz around the league both will not return). How much do the Raptors pay them, or does Toronto play the free-agent market for a five. Also, OG Anunoby is eligible for a rookie contract extension.
Toronto was good this season, the two seed in the East and pushed Boston to seven games in the second round. Toronto is not in a rebuild, but they are in a retool with Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles and Pascal Siakam on the rise. What exactly that retool looks like remains to be seen, but how Ujiri and the Raptors spend their money this summer will tell us a lot about its future direction.