Does Fred VanVleet have a future with the Houston Rockets?

How long will Fred VanVleet be on the Houston Rockets?
How long will Fred VanVleet be on the Houston Rockets? / Tim Warner/GettyImages

When fans see an NBA contract, they tend to have a knee-jerk reaction.

Who can blame them? These guys are making more money than most of us would see in several lifetimes. They earn staggering sums that produce visceral reactions. It's easy to conclude: "That's too much".

A lot of folks said that when the Houston Rockets signed Fred VanVleet. At $40-45 million a year, VanVleet's deal is certainly lucrative.

Yet, it's also cleverly structured. It feels like VanVleet just arrived in Houston, but next season is his last guaranteed year with the team. Ahead of the 2025-26 season, VanVleet's deal has a player option.

What should the Rockets do with it?

Should Houston Rockets pick up VanVleet's option?

As with any decision, it depends on other choices that are made.

By the end of next summer, the Rockets will either have traded or extended both Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun. For the sake of simplicity, let's assume they both get extended at $35 million a year.

Add those deals to VanVleet and Brooks' contract, and we're looking at $134 million. That's a lot of cap space between four players. Luckily, the Rockets will have several players on rookie contracts. They should be able to temporarily fill out the rest of their roster.

The operative word is "temporarily". During the following summer, Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason will need new deals. If the Rockets do pick up VanVleet's option, he'll be hitting unrestricted free agency at the same time.

What happens then?

Does VanVleet have long-term future with Rockets?

VanVleet's next deal won't be in the neighborhood of $40 million.

It will still be substantial. Let's assume VanVleet earns somewhere between $25-30 million on his next deal.

That salary is not going to be conducive to building around the young core. In all likelihood, VanVleet will be a stepping stone for the Rockets. He's a transitional player. VanVleet is here to pass down his wealth of knowledge and move on.

Unless the Rockets pivot. If they end up trading for a superstar, they could pivot away from the youth movement altogether. With his ability to space the floor and defend, VanVleet will complement anyone they bring on board.

In other words, his future is unclear. The Rockets are going to have cap concerns to navigate no matter what. They won't likely be able to keep every member of the "core 6" in any event. Still, assuming they don't make a blockbuster deal for a top-10 player, it's likely that the Rockets will pick up VanVleet's team option, line up his replacement, and let him walk after.

Rest assured, fans will react accordingly.