Before the NBA season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet was having the best season of his career.
Through 48 games, VanVleet is averaging career-highs across the board of 17.6 points, 6.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. Once the team's sixth man, he has started in every game he's appeared in this season, replacing former Raptors guard Danny Green in the starting lineup alongside Kyle Lowry in the backcourt.
With this being the final year of his current contract, VanVleet was positioning himself for a big payday in the offseason as one of the best free agents available. However, with so much uncertainty in regards to how the stoppage in play will impact the league financially moving forward, there might not be as much money available to free agents in years past.
For VanVleet, that could force him to make a decision. If there isn't as much money available as once he thought there would be, does he lock himself into a long-term contract for security or does he bet on himself yet again by signing another short-term deal so that he can become a free agent when there is more money available?
"Everything is on the table," VanVleet said during a conference call on Wednesday. "I am in a position where I feel like I've done my work and I've proven my worth, and so we are going to position ourselves the right way, but also we are kind of waiting to see what's offered. We have to wait and see what's offered. We can't create the deal, obviously.
"Nobody knows what anything is going to look like, so this hasn't even been on the table for discussion, really, between me and my camp. It's more like let's wait and see what happens. Whenever it's time to sit down, then we sit down and negotiate. I just did a two-year. Best case scenario, no, I wouldn't take a short-term deal, but obviously this is not the best-case scenario for anybody. I'll just say I'm flexible and I'm open. I will listen.
"I think everybody knows what a best-case scenario deal looks like, so we'll start there and work our way down."
VanVleet said that he's not worried too much about what will happen, but that he has thought about the impact the league being suspended will have. Still, he's optimistic that the NBA and NBPA will figure out a way to give those who are free agents this offseason a "fair shake."
"Obviously, we'll probably all take a hit at some point and hopefully the hit is just to kind of minimize this year, and so there are ways to work around that stuff. At the end of the day, I think people's health and wellbeing and frame of mind is a lot more important than a couple million here or there because we're all filthy rich compared to what we came from in the first place, so I don't think anybody is crying over it.
"I just think that it sucks when you do start to think about what would've happened, what should've happened, so (I) try to stay away from that as much as possible."
Following four years at Wichita State, VanVleet went undrafted in 2016. He impressed as a member of Toronto's Summer League team that offseason, leading to him signing a multi-year contract with the franchise. He then signed a two-year, $18 million extension in the summer of 2018.
In his four seasons with the Raptors, VanVleet is averaging 10.3 points, 4.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game.
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