CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Fred VanVleet bet on himself. It paid off.
Gordon Hayward, meanwhile, is heading to a new home.
VanVleet agreed Saturday to a four-year, $85 million contract to remain with the Toronto Raptors, a person with direct knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract remains unsigned. The fourth year of the contract is at VanVleet’s option.
Hayward has been a player that the Charlotte Hornets have wanted for years. On Saturday, they finally landed him, according to Priority Sports, the agency that represents the veteran forward. ESPN, which first reported the agreement, said Hayward would sign a four-year deal worth $120 million.
VanVleet, the undrafted guard from Wichita State, has played a huge role in the Raptors’ recent successes, most importantly their run to the 2019 NBA championship. He has set career bests in scoring by wide margins in each of the last three seasons, that number rising to 17.6 points per game this past season.
Keeping VanVleet was of major importance to the Raptors, who have won at least 50 games in each of the last five seasons — by far the longest current streak in the NBA. Milwaukee has a two-year such streak, and the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers reached the 50-win mark last season.
It also fulfilled a VanVleet prophecy: He famously went undrafted four years ago, then passed on some low-money deals that he figured wouldn’t pan into much.
“I turned those down. I bet on myself,” VanVleet told friends and family on what would have been his draft night, a festive occasion that turned disappointing when the call from the NBA never came.
The Raptors brought him in on a summer-league deal, then a minimum deal, then gave him a two-year contract for $18 million two years later — and now gave him the full reward.
Kyle Lowry, the veteran point guard and longtime leader of the Raptors, has predicted that VanVleet will take over that role one day. The deal agreed to on Saturday only cements that sort of thinking.
“He’s going to be rewarded,” Lowry said after the Raptors were eliminated with a Game 7 loss to Boston in this past season’s Eastern Conference semifinals. “To me, that means the world that he can take care of his family and take care of his family at a high level.”
That’s no longer in doubt.
Free agency opened in the NBA on Friday evening and VanVleet was one of the top available names. The Lakers’ Anthony Davis remains unsigned though is expected to remain with the defending champions, and Hayward’s future was another of the top questions remaining in the league as Day 2 of free agency began Saturday.
It was not a question for long.
Hayward turned down a $34 million option for this coming season with Boston, and the Celtics were in talks with other teams — including Indiana, which was believed to be a preference of Hayward’s — on potential sign-and-trade deals.
Instead, it appears the Celtics are seeing Hayward walk away as a free agent.
Hayward agreed to a four-year offer sheet worth about $63 million with the Hornets in 2014, a deal that was matched by the Utah Jazz — Hayward’s original team. Hayward left the Jazz for Boston in 2017, saw his first season with the Celtics end on opening night of the 2017-18 season when he suffered a horrible lower leg injury, then averaged 14.0 points per game over the following two seasons.
VanVleet’s deal was the second major development for the Raptors in two days. On Friday, the team announced that it would begin this season by calling Tampa, Florida, home because of travel issues related to the coronavirus pandemic — specifically the challenge of getting NBA teams over a U.S.-Canada border that is closed to nonessential travel.
Cox Media Group