“However, several other teams, including the Rockets, Lakers, Suns, and Magic, have been linked to VanVleet as potential suitors, while other playoff-caliber teams could emerge as sign-and-trade options,” Scotto wrote.
VanVleet declined his player option for the 2023-24 season, making him an unrestricted free agent. He is expected to command a hefty salary in free agency, potentially upwards of $30 million per season.
The Raptors could still decide to keep VanVleet this offseason, but the Lakers could be able to work a sign-and-trade deal for the one-time All-Star if they are interested. The issue for the Lakers would be finding a player – like D’Angelo Russell – that Toronto would want in return in such a deal.
“For the Lakers to land VanVleet, it would likely need to involve D’Angelo Russell as part of a sign-and-trade, but Toronto would need to covet Russell – a fellow free agent – in such a scenario,” Scotto wrote.
VanVleet has been with Toronto since the 2016-17 season. He won an NBA title with the franchise and has had quite the improbable rise to NBA stardom after going undrafted out of Wichita State University.
During the 2022-23 season, VanVleet averaged 19.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 7.2 assists (a career high) per game. However, he did struggle shooting the ball, especially from beyond the arc.
The one-time All-Star shot just 39.3 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from 3-point range in the 2022-23 season. His 3-point percentage was the worst of his NBA career.
If the Lakers view VanVleet as an upgrade at the point guard position, it could make sense to try to work a trade for him rather than bring back Russell.
Acquired in a trade at the deadline in the 2022-23 season, Russell struggled at times in the playoffs, especially against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference Finals.
The Lakers are looking to maximize their championship window around LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and it’s possible VanVleet could help them get there.
Since Toronto missed the playoffs in the 2022-23 season, it’s possible the team is willing to shake the roster up with a trade rather than lose VanVleet for nothing to another team in free agency.