NBA Player #2: Fred VanVleet, Houston Rockets
One of this summer’s largest dominoes was Fred VanVleet’s decision. Winning with Toronto in 2019 made his departure a tough decision, but the Rockets’ new era and dynamic were too eye-opening. VanVleet received its first max deal in July 2023. His three-year, $130 million contract is NBA history’s largest ever offered to an undrafted player.
Although VanVleet had mediocre shooting splits of 39.3 FG/34.2 3P/48.6 EFG% in 2022–23, he still averaged 19.3 points, 7.2 assists, and 4.1 rebounds coming off his All-Star campaign. He has that 2019 championship pedigree and his feistiness drives him to compete with the best point guards in the league. VanVleet was honest about seeking a fresh start following his self-historic contract.
The Houston Rockets had been widely expected to sign a premiere name this July throughout the season. There was significant buzz leading to pathways for a James Harden reunion tied together with over $60 million in cap space. To the point where many actually thought the situation was imminent, Ime Udoka became the head coach, instantly expressing how enticing the attractive salary was.
Summer came, and the top-dog rumors of the beard and potential whispers of Kyrie Irving exited the picture. Udoka was looking for a veteran quarterback with a winning mentality and an abundance of experience. What better piece to their new puzzle than an NBA champ with battle scars from intense series’ in VanVleet?
The 29-year-old brings a winning notion to Houston with Udoka and Dillon Brooks, along with an empowering presence. The three of them, having been through a lot, seek an opportunity to paint a winning culture.
VanVleet could completely change the complexion of the Rockets’ organization, erasing their few-year absence from competing. Showing flashes of contention, sort of like the way Jalen Brunson did in New York at less efficiency.
VanVleet will be able to bring the best out of their young core, led by Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr., giving them all the opportunity to thrive more off the ball. The excitement their Summer League team just generated foreshadowed a thrilling training camp for the Rockets. VanVleet setting the tone and driving the ship will make for a fun team with the discipline he and Udoka will provide. Houston will now have a bit of a microscope pointed in their direction.