Raptors officially re-sign backup point guard Fred VanVleet
Toronto Raptors' Fred VanVleet speaks at the MLSE LaunchPad in Toronto on Friday, July 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
David Alter, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, July 6, 2018 1:10PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 6, 2018 2:45PM EDT
TORONTO -- Fred VanVleet was out at a local drug store getting diapers just after midnight on July 1 when Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri came calling to sign him.
VanVleet missed the call but appreciated the gesture.
"They wanted me back, I wanted to be back," VanVleet said on Friday. For me, it was a super easy decision."
VanVleet and the Raptors agreed to terms on a reported two-year, US$18-million deal last Sunday, but the deal couldn't be made official until noon ET on Friday when the NBA moratorium on contracts was lifted.
VanVleet dressed in 76 games for Toronto last season, averaging a career-high 8.6 points and 3.2 assists and being named a finalist for the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award. A restricted free agent before signing his new deal, VanVleet could have tested the waters with other teams for a rich deal.
But loyalty to the team that gave him the opportunity to break into the NBA prevented that scenario.
"For two parties that wanted to make it work, everything kind of happened the right way," VanVleet said. "I wasn't inclined to go look elsewhere, and I think it just kind of happened that way."
The six-foot point guard went undrafted after spending four years playing college basketball at Wichita State. The Raptors signed the 24-year-old native of Rockford, Ill., to his first professional contract on July 2016 and assigned him to their development franchise in the G-League.
His role has grown to the point where he has become a reliable contributor off the bench and has been thrust into important situations late in games where he is on the court with Toronto's starters.
His contribution helped the Raptors to a franchise-best 59-23 regular season record while earning their first No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
"Two years ago around this time, he was the backup point guard on our summer league team and really every step along the way he's made the jump," Raptors GM Bobby Webster said. "It'd be naive for us to put any ceiling on him. It's been two years."
VanVleet's contract gives him a substantial raise over the $1.3 million he earned last season. He will also become an unrestricted free agent when the contract expires at the end of the 2019-20 season. His contract follows a similar path to key players DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Jonas Valanciunas, whose contracts all end at the same time.
"Going through this process, the two things that kept coming up to us were his absolute desire and will to win and his ability to continually improve himself," Webster said of VanVleet. "That's something that makes him special."
The deal puts the Raptors firmly above the $123.7 US luxury tax threshold for the 2018-19 season. With free agency in full swing, it's unclear if the Raptors will look to shed that number or add players and exceed that number to be more competitive.
"Your final payroll isn't calculated until April, so we are nine months away from that. But as we've said before ownership is behind us," Webster said.