In the first major domino of free agency, Toronto Raptors All-Star guard Fred VanVleet has declined his $22.8 million player option and will become an unrestricted free agent in July, sources told ESPN on Monday.
VanVleet hasn't ruled out negotiating a new deal and a Raptors return, sources said, but he becomes one of the most prominent guards in the marketplace and an immediate target of teams with cap space and several contenders who'd welcome discussions on sign-and-trade scenarios with Toronto, sources said.
There are teams with and without salary cap space who'll have the mechanisms to pursue VanVleet, who has consistently shown himself to be a lead guard with the capacity to impact winning for the Raptors.
There were several contending teams who discussed VanVleet trade deadline deals with the Raptors. Those conversations could be revisited in free agency.
VanVleet, 29, has played his entire seven-year NBA career with the Raptors, where he played an immense part in the franchise's 2019 NBA championship run.
VanVleet averaged 19.3 points and a career-best 7.2 assists last season, ranking in the Top 10 in assists-to-turnover ratio. VanVleet had six 25-point, 10-assist games last season -- the most in a season by a Toronto player since Damon Stoudamire in 1996-1997, per ESPN Stats & Information research.
VanVleet ranked third in the NBA in steals (1.8) and first in deflections per game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His standing in Raptors history has been impactful. He's one of two players (with Kyle Lowry) to have 1,000 3-pointers. He's also one of two players to have a franchise's single-game record for points and assists -- along with Wilt Chamberlain and the 76ers, per ESPN Stats & information.
Over the past three seasons, VanVleet has averaged 37.1 minutes a game -- second most in the NBA only behind his teammate Pascal Siakam. In fact, VanVleet led the NBA in miles covered per game in each of the past three seasons, per Second Spectrum tracking data.