1. Toronto Raptors
VanVleet has stated his clear preference to stay in Toronto, but he’s not willing to give them a hometown discount. That puts the Raptors in a tough spot. They desperately need to retain VanVleet to remain among the Eastern Conference elite, but they can’t afford to pay him too much if they want to stay in a position to clear room to add a max contract next summer.
The biggest advantage the Raptors have in the race is their ability to offer VanVleet a five-year deal. That extra year should give Toronto the trump card they need to vanquish the competition. VanVleet will find it difficult to turn down a five-year contract that guarantees him over $100 million. The Raptors are the only team that can give him a fifth year in free agency.
Interestingly, losing VanVleet might cost Toronto their chance to land Giannis next summer. His ability to handle the ball and stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting could be crucial for the Raptors ability to grow into a title contender in the coming years. If he were to leave, Toronto would suddenly have a gaping hole to fill in their backcourt. It’s hard to imagine Giannis signing with a team with that kind of obvious weakness.
VanVleet isn’t going to make it easy or comfortable for the Raptors in their quest to retain him, but they have the financial flexibility to make it happen if they believe in him as a future star. Bet on Masai Ujiri and his staff to get a deal done. They realize VanVleet is too important for their current and future team to let him get away for nothing.