LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 23: Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors moves the ball against Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot #9 of the Brooklyn Nets during the first half in game four of the first round of the NBA playoffs at The Field House at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 23, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
(Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)

The New York Knicks are “expected to emerge” in the race to sign Fred VanVleet this offseason, but will a deal happen?

Danny Small

The New York Knicks are reportedly in the market for Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet. The Athletic’s Shams Charania first reported the expected interest in the championship-winning player:

“VanVleet is a shoe free agent and has multiple suitors for a new deal, sources say. And on the court, expect a strong market for the free-agent-to-be: Detroit, New York and Phoenix are expected to emerge as suitors for VanVleet outside Toronto, sources said.”

The supposed interest makes sense. The Knicks need a point guard—preferably one who can shoot the three—and VanVleet is the best free agent at the position. The VanVleet smoke continues with Jonathan Macri of Knicks Film School adding more to the Charania report:

“According to a league source with knowledge of the Knicks thinking, some members of New York’s front office are ‘all in’ on VanVleet as a free agent target, feeling that he is the best available player on the market. Despite speculation that the front office is not looking to add any long term money to the books, the source said they are planning on being involved in the sweepstakes for the combo guard this October.”

Will They, Won’t They?

Like most things in life, this is all about the money. If this were a decision based simply on basketball, it would be a no-brainer. VanVleet is a championship player who can do everything the Knicks need their point guard to do.

He can shoot the three (39.3% career), play on-ball as the lead guard, or shift to an off-the-ball role when RJ Barrett has the ball in his hands. Despite his size, he’s a decent defender who flourishes on a team with a strong defensive identity. He’s Tom Thibodeau‘s kind of player.

But again, this is all about the money. The Knicks likely want to keep their current cap flexibility for one more season before the loaded 2021 free-agent class. VanVleet is going to get the bag this offseason, but it’s still too early to say what his next contract will look like. ESPN’s Bobby Marks said on a podcast in December that one team believes VanVleet could command $25-30 million per year on the open market.

The Raptors are bonafide championship contenders and VanVleet was by far their best player in a first-round sweep against the Brooklyn Nets. What kind of contract would VanVleet sign in the offseason after leading his team to back-to-back titles and an NBA Finals MVP? That’s still a long way off from happening, but it’s certainly possible.

Which brings us to another roadblock in the Knicks signing VanVleet—the Raptors. If Toronto wins a championship sans Kawhi Leonard, they almost have to keep this core together for the chance at a three-peat. Pascal Siakam is locked up for four more years and Kyle Lowry recently signed a one-year extension.

Even if they don’t win a title this year, they are built to contend in the Eastern Conference. They have budding stars, the 2020 NBA Coach of the Year in Nick Nurse, and a strong cast of role players either locked up or restricted free agents.

VanVleet would be a tremendous addition for the Knicks, but it’s hard to envision a scenario where he makes it to New York on a deal that works for all parties. If the Knicks are really “all in” on him, they could make a Godfather offer and steal him away from Toronto, but it’s too early to know what’s going to happen this offseason.

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