BusinessFred VanVleet Will Carry The Weight Of Expectations On...

Fred VanVleet Will Carry The Weight Of Expectations On His Shoulders This Season


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On July 7, 2023, the Houston Rockets inked veteran point guard Fred VanVleet to a whopping three-year, $128.5 million contract which will pay him $40.81 million next season and $42.85 million in 2024-2025. While the deal has been reported to be a three-year pact, the Rockets have a team option on the third and final season, in 2025-2026, when the then-31-year-old VanVleet would stand to make $44.89 million.

Armed with cash, VanVleet was Houston’s first big splash in free agency this summer as the club hopes to turn around its culture and get back to its winning ways after a grueling three-year rebuild. The Rockets are placing a major bet on VanVleet after they reportedly rebuked James Harden’s interests in a reunion.

With the news last week coming out regarding Kevin Porter Jr.’s legal troubles, even more will be on VanVleet’s shoulders this upcoming season. As it stands, the veteran guard projects to be the lead ball-handler in Houston’s offense with only rookie Amen Thompson behind him to share those duties.

More than filling up the box score or even the win column, VanVleet is tasked with instilling some professionalism and veteran leadership in a lockerroom sorely in need of those qualities. Earlier this summer, shortly after agreeing to terms with his new team, VanVleet was spotted immediately at work in the training room alongside new backcourt running mate—and franchise cornerstone—Jalen Green, a sight which surely was met with satisfaction by Rockets brass. If VanVleet can rub off at all on Green, and make life easier for him with his tablesetting, he will have earned his paycheck.

Not so coincidentally, 2025-2026, the year in which VanVleet’s money rolls off of Houston’s books, would be the first year of potential massive pay raises for Green and fellow third-year stalwart Alperen Sengun. That is to say, while the jaw-dropping figure on VanVleet’s contract raised eyebrows, it won’t exactly squeeze the Rockets’ balance sheet given the state of the team’s financials. Further, under the terms of the league’s new collective bargaining agreement, each team is incentivized to meet the league’s minimum salary floor by opening night.

Houston has high hopes for 20-year-old rookie Amen Thompson, an A+ athlete with superior court vision to whom Rockets brass hopes to eventually hand over the steering wheel. VanVleet is the bridge to that future, with the presumption that Thompson will be ready by opening night in 2025. The backcourt minutes distribution will be a focus of attention as the Rockets can bring Thompson along slowly but also ensure that the undersized VanVleet does not wear out.



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