Fred VanVleet, one of the most coveted players in NBA free agency this year, is remaining a Toronto Raptor.
A source close to the team confirmed a report Saturday that the Raptors had re-signed the 26-year-old to a four-year, US$85-million deal, keeping one of the best backcourts in the league intact.
A spokesperson for the team declined to comment on the contract, citing a league moratorium that is in place until Sunday.
VanVleet went undrafted in 2016 and so signed with Toronto for summer league. Mr. Bet On Yourself went from being a standout with Toronto’s G League affiliate Raptors 905 to being a key cog in Toronto’s thrilling 2019 championship run.
The image of VanVleet lying on the floor in Toronto’s Game 4 win of the Finals at Golden State, his front tooth chipped, blood running down his cheek, will be one of the most memorable of the thrilling run.
Last season, he started alongside Kyle Lowry and averaged 17.6 points and 6.6 assists while shooting 39 per cent from three on nearly seven attempts a game.
He’s a workhorse on defence, leading the NBA in deflections. He was fourth in steals.
Lowry congratulated his friend and teammate in an Instagram post Saturday, saying “this day has legit come from blood, sweat and broken teeth.”
“Wow since day one I knew this man was special!” the post said. “He’s now seeing the blessing from the hard work he’s been putting in the time the effort to become this man first and basketball player!”
VanVleet had Raptors fans sweating when he recently said on the J.J. Redick podcast: “I’ve never said it publicly, but I’m not shy about that, I’m trying to get paid man … I’ve won a championship, now it’s time to cash out. I just want to feel my value reciprocated on the other side.”
The Raptors had repeatedly said securing VanVleet was their biggest off-season task, and they’d been quietly confident they’d be successful.
Toronto will start its season, which tips off on Dec. 22, south of the border, playing games in Tampa, Fla. due to COVID-19 border restrictions.
Training camps open Dec. 1.