The Detroit Pistons are expected to pursue unrestricted free agent Fred VanVleet, according to James Edwards III of The Athletic.
Detroit is currently capped out this summer, but that’s entirely dependent on the future of Andre Drummond, who holds a $28-million player option. Drummond has publicly voiced his desire to stay with the Pistons for the remainder of his career, but reports say the Pistons have shopped Drummond ahead of the trade deadline, with Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, and Toronto as potential landing spots.
Signing the 25-year-old VanVleet would represent a rebuilding effort for the Pistons, who have seen their season go down the drain following season-ending knee surgery for Blake Griffin. VanVleet is in the midst of a breakout campaign, as he’s averaging 18 points, seven assists, and two steals for the defending champion Toronto Raptors. Pistons coach Dwane Casey has spoke fondly of VanVleet from their time together in Toronto, and VanVleet would bring long-term stability to the point guard position in Detroit.
Having said that, the Raptors have every incentive to retain VanVleet for those same reasons. Kyle Lowry is coming up on his 34th birthday in a few months, and VanVleet is the obvious choice as his successor. The Raptors signed VanVleet as an undrafted point guard in 2017, and fostered his growth from being a fourth-string option to becoming a vital piece of their 2019 championship run. It was VanVleet who closed out the fourth quarter of Game 6 in Oakland, and he earned a Finals MVP vote for his dogged defence against Stephen Curry.
VanVleet is unrestricted, but the Raptors hold his full Bird Rights and can exceed the cap to re-sign him, however the main issue is long-term flexibility. It’s widely expected the Raptors will maintain max cap room for the summer of 2021, when a host of premier players like Giannis Antentokounmpo are expected to hit the market. Signing VanVleet doesn’t necessarily impinge their pursuit, but the Raptors would be wise to not exceed $20-million per year.
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