Fred VanVleet was the hard-working motor that powered the Toronto Raptors’ league-leading second unit last season.
The Raptors plan to keep him around for at least a couple more seasons.
Team president Masai Ujiri retained the team’s most important restricted free agent, agreeing to a two-year deal with VanVleet on Sunday, a source confirmed to The Canadian Press.
The deal, worth a reported US$18-million, was done just hours after NBA free agency opened Sunday morning, but can’t become official until the league’s off-season moratorium ends on Friday.
Ujiri made it clear recently that retaining the finalist for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award was a top off-season priority.
“I don’t know what the rules are with that,” Ujiri said recently on the guard’s contract status. “I don’t want to get into trouble, but I love Freddie. I hope I don’t get fined for saying that, but I love Freddie. He’s our player and I love him. Whatever it is, Freddie knows we love him.”
The 24-year-old guard – whose motto is “Bet on yourself” – went undrafted out of Wichita State in 2016, and then joined the Raptors to play in summer league a few weeks later. He went on to sign a multiyear deal with Toronto in mid-July of that year.
While his personal stats weren’t eye-popping last season – he averaged 8.6 points, 3.2 assists and shot 41.4 per cent from three-point range – his steady hand in guiding the team’s second unit was a big reason the Raptors won a franchise-high 59 games and secured the No. 1 seed in the east.
Raptors shooting guard Norman Powell posted his congratulations on Instagram, writing “Congrats Bro Bro fredvanvleet.” VanVleet reposted the message.
VanVleet was a regular fixture in the fourth quarter for Toronto, playing more fourth-quarter minutes than any other Raptor, both for his clutch shooting and hustle play. His absence in the playoffs owing to a shoulder injury was sorely felt.
There was talk the Phoenix Suns had their eye on VanVleet, but that diminished early on Sunday morning after the Suns reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with veteran swingman Trevor Ariza.