NBA free agency 2023: Fred VanVleet leaves Raptors, signs max deal with Rockets

Fred VanVleet's impressive resume includes winning an NBA championship with the Raptors in 2019 and making the All-Star game in 2021-22.

Fred VanVleet's time with the Toronto Raptors has come to an end, as the point guard reportedly agreed to a three-year, $130-million contract with the Houston Rockets on Friday as the NBA's free agent window opened. The deal was the first maximum contract given out this summer, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.

VanVleet spent seven seasons with the Raptors organization after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2016. His impressive resume includes winning an NBA championship in 2019 and making the All-Star game in 2021-22.

The 29-year-old averaged 19.3 points and a career-best 7.2 assists per game in 69 contests in 2022-23. He shot 39% from the field while hitting a career-worst 34% of his 3-point attempts.

VanVleet said last spring that he wanted to play his entire career in Toronto but the Rockets' offer was evidently too good to pass up. The Rockford, Ill., native hit the market as one of the top free agents available after opting out of the final year of the four-year, $85-million deal he signed with the Raptors in 2020.

Fred VanVleet won a championship with the Raptors in 2019. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Fred VanVleet won a championship with the Raptors in 2019. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Rockets add VanVleet to Udoka's young team

The Rockets finished in a tie for last place in the Western Conference in 2022-23 but there should be brighter days ahead for the franchise.

Houston hired Ime Udoka as its new head coach in April after the 45-year-old finished a season-long suspension that led to his dismissal from the Boston Celtics. Udoka violated Celtics policies when he allegedly had a consensual and intimate relationship with a female staffer during his time in Boston and allegedly made inappropriate remarks toward her.

Despite his behaviour, the Rockets felt comfortable giving him their head coaching job. Udoka guided the Celtics to the 2022 NBA Finals in his first and only season at the helm.

The Rockets are ripe with young talent, headlined by Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., Alperen Sengun and Jabari Smith Jr. The team added to that core by selecting Amen Thompson with the fourth-overall pick in the 2023 draft.

VanVleet brings a veteran presence and championship pedigree to the roster as the club looks to take a step forward in its development.

What's next for the Raptors?

The Raptors finished with a middling 41-41 record in 2022-23 and must decide whether to keep their existing core together or trade their impactful veteran players to acquire young talent to better complement 2022 Rookie of the Year winner Scottie Barnes. Toronto decided to keep free agent Jakob Poeltl around, inking the centre to a four-year, $80-million contract on Friday.

Toronto quickly found its VanVleet replacement by agreeing to a two-year, $26-million deal with Dennis Schroder.

Should the Raptors opt to go in a different direction, two-time All-Star Pascal Siakam would be a valuable addition to any championship contender, and OG Anunoby's name has been in the rumour mill for multiple seasons now. Toronto already has new coach Darko Rajakovic in place after firing Nick Nurse, so 2023-24 could make for the logical start of a fresh era for the team.