With most of the talk being about how the New York Knicks need to address their point guard situation through the draft, there’s also a very intriguing option in free agency whom the Knicks shouldn’t overlook. That player is Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet, and according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Knicks are expected to be one of the teams in the mix for him:
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.
VanVleet has built off of his breakout performance in the playoffs last season with a stellar season this year. He’s established himself as a borderline All-Star who can play both ends of the floor at a high level. Also, being only 26, VanVleet is just entering his prime, so his best basketball is ahead of him.
He’s averaged 17.6 points, 6.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.9 steals in 54 games played this year. He’s shooting the ball 41.3 percent from the field and 39 percent from three, so the efficiency is there too.
The NBA shutdown seemed to have no effect on VanVleet’s game either, as he’s been tearing it up in the Orlando bubble. Since the restart, he’s averaged nearly 18 points and seven assists while playing lockdown defense and shooting about 42 percent from the three-point line.
In the first round of the playoffs, VanVleet has averaged 21.3 points, 7.8 assists, four rebounds, and 1.3 steals while shooting 52.7 percent and 56 percent from three en route to a four-game sweep of the Brooklyn Nets.
Charania mentions in his report that VanVleet is also a “shoe free agent,” which means he’s looking to cash in on a shoe deal in addition to a basketball deal. He should have plenty of suitors in that area as well, and that could benefit the Knicks’ chances in landing him. Even though it may not carry as much weight as it once did, New York is still the ideal place to play when it comes to endorsement opportunities and brand building.
There are more possible advantages to being a star in the media capital of the world, more so than any other market. This could be very appealing to VanVleet and his camp. On top of that, he would be the perfect fit with the team.
The Knicks have been in desperate need of a franchise floor general for far too long now, and VanVleet can finally fill that void. Elfrid Payton was solid for the Knicks this season, but he’s weak offensively. Frank Ntilikina has shown flashes, but he’s also limited offensively and is better suited as a complementary piece. Dennis Smith Jr. has had his moments, but he’s not the answer either.
The Knicks could try and draft their guy, but that brings more uncertainty and hope with the chance of that player not panning out. Hopefully, the Knicks will be able to better develop their players now with the new regime to reduce that likelihood, but they need to prove they can do that. The Knicks can’t afford to keep banking on potential, and VanVleet would bring a proven, productive player who is still ascending in his young career. He can be a piece that helps the team in the present while also being a core building block for the future.
VanVleet is the kind of tough, determined player who Tom Thibodeau would love due to his two-way ability and strong work ethic. He’s come a long way from going undrafted in 2016, and his stats show he’s consistently been improving. His shooting and facilitating would be huge for the Knicks and would open up many more opportunities for the players around him, particularly RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson.
It’s good to see that the Knicks are going to try and make a run at VanVleet because he would do wonders for this team. He’ll not only accelerate their rebuild and catapult them back into contention more quickly, but he’ll help a lot in the development of the Knicks’ younger pieces. His market will be competitive, but he should be Leon Rose’s number one priority once free agency begins even if the price is steep, which it likely will be.